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Are You Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

Posted by Allyson Edwards on Nov 8, 2017 10:30:15 AM
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The 60 accusations of varying degrees of harassment on Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein have sparked up conversations in the workplace.

Although each sexual harassment situation is unique, it’s critical that all employees closely review company handbooks, policies, and government laws to better understand their rights and what actions or behaviors are classified as sexual harassment.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual factors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive workplace. [i]

Types of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can vary depending on the situation and people involved. In general, there are two types of sexual harassment:

  1. Quid pro quo: This form of sexual harassment occurs when it is stated or implied that a decision regarding an employee such as a promotion, an assignment, or even a job depends on the employee’s submission to the sexual harassment.
  2. Hostile work environment: Sexual harassment that occurs when an unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive working environment or is so severe that it affects an employee’s ability to participate in work activities and events. [ii]

Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

  • Inappropriate touching, including kissing, pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person
  • Showing sexually inappropriate images or videos, like pornography
  • Sending suggestive letters, notes, or e-mails
  • Gestures such as blowing kisses, dirty hand gestures, or thrusting motions
  • Asking another employee about their sexual history
  • Sexual comments regarding an employee’s attire or body

What can I do if I believe I am facing sexual harassment at work?

Depending on the situation, there are a couple of ways you can address the harassment. Here are a few general actions that you can take:

  1. Review your employee handbook or policies
  2. Put your complaints in writing and take notes on the specific details. Be sure to include the date, time, place, what was said and done, and who was there to witness the exchanges.
  3. If you feel safe confronting the harasser, explain to them what specific behavior is bothering you and ask them to stop.
  4. Tell your supervisor or HR department about the behavior and steps you have taken to address it.
  5. If you believe that you have a Title VII claim, you have the right to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC.
  6. If you are not sure if you want to file a complaint with the EEOC, continue to take detailed notes of discriminatory practices. You have 6 months from the date of discriminatory activity to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC, so don’t wait too long if you're going to make a claim. [iii]

What is Non-Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is the most commonly reported form of harassment in the workplace, but it isn’t the only type. Non-sexual harassment is most easily defined as workplace bullying and can include any action that makes the terms and conditions of employment more difficult for members of a protected class.

A protected class is a group named in a law as protected from discrimination such as age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion. [iv]

Examples of Non-Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

  • Off-color or racist jokes
  • Displaying posters that might be offensive to particular group
  • Sending offensive cartoons or pictures to employees
  • Name calling
  • Wearing clothes that could be considered offensive to a particular group
  • Making negative comments about an employee’s personal religious beliefs

Harassment in the workplace is not something that should be taken lightly. Understand your rights and seek out your HR department for additional guidance.

This blog was written by Ally Edwards, Marketing Guru at PeopleGuru. This post may not be copied or published without PeopleGuru's express written permission.


[i] “Facts About Sexual Harassment.” Facts About Sexual Harassment, United States Government, 2017, www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

[ii] “Know Your Rights at Work: Workplace Sexual Harassment.” AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881, 2017, www.aauw.org/what-we-do/legal-resources/know-your-rights-at-work/workplace-sexual-harassment/

[iii] “Time Limits For Filing A Charge.” Timeliness, United States Government, 2017, www.eeoc.gov/employees/timeliness.cfm.

[iv] Doyle, Alison. “Examples of Sexual and Non-Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” The Balance, 14 June 2017, www.thebalance.com/examples-of-sexual-and-non-sexual-harassment-2060884.

Topics: Compliance, Employee Rights, Sexual Harassment

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