Three Types of Sexual Harassment That Might Surprise You

Sexual Harassment at Work

May was sexual harassment awareness month. Because knowledge is the key to prevention, Strong Advocates is committed to educating about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Legally, sexual harassment occurs when a behavior is unwanted and based on gender. Most victims of sexual harassment are women, although it can happen to men too. Male-on-male or female-on-female harassment also occurs. There are countless ways for this to take shape in the workplace but here are three types of sexual harassment that may surprise you.

Gender-Based Jokes and Comments

Sexual harassment does not always have to be sexual in the traditional sense. It can be harassment based on a person’s sex, gender expression or sexuality too. For example, a man who dresses or acts in a way that is deemed effeminate or not masculine enough may become the target of consistent comments or pranks. A woman who is called a bitch or asked if she has her period when she is emotional could be sexual harassment too as these are gender-specific remarks.

Although this type of abuse is often played off as a joke, it can easily create a hostile work environment and can be tremendously damaging.

Innocent” Touching

This type of sexual harassment is common but is easy to doubt. Some touches are clearly out-of-line, like a pat on the buttocks or grabbing intimate areas; however others do not necessarily seem inappropriate at first. Even though this type of behavior can sometimes be explained away (think “he is just touchy-feely”) it is indeed a valid form of sexual harassment when the touching becomes persistently bothersome and the perpetrator targets one gender over the other.

Touching that crosses the line could be lingering hugs, a hand on the back or arm, or an invasion of personal space. Chances are that if the touching makes you uncomfortable, it is worth considering more deeply.

Indirect Harassment

You do not need to be a direct party to the questionable behavior for it to be sexual harassment. Others in a workplace may tell lewd stories about their sex life or dirty jokes or display explicit pictures and videos that offend another. This still could be sexual harassment as it creates a hostile work environment. Even if the participants in the offensive behavior are not uncomfortable with it, witnessing someone be sexually harassed may create or contribute to a hostile work environment

When to Hire a Sexual Harassment Attorney

With sexual harassment in the workplace being a hot topic in the news, it is being recognized, called out and educated about more often than ever before. Still, most instances of sexual harassment go unreported and too many men and women live with the difficult emotions caused by harassment.

If you feel you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work, first speak to a supervisor or other appropriate person. If nothing is done to address the situation, contact an experienced employment attorney. The team at Strong Advocates is ready to stand with you against sexual harassment. Contact us now to schedule your free consultation.