What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace?

| Jun 16, 2021 | Harassment At Work

In the workplace, you have a right to a safe environment, free of discrimination and harassment. No matter who you are, a supervisor, employer or colleague cannot harass you based on your sex. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment includes sexual harassment, verbal harassment and physical harassment. 

In some instances, an employee may be subject to sexual harassment but does not recognize he or she should file a claim. The following should help you distinguish what sexual harassment is. 

Sexual harassment basics

There is a common misconception that sexual harassment only affects women. Men and women alike can face sexual harassment. Additionally, the harasser can be of the opposite or the same sex as the victim. Harassment can be of a sexual nature. For instance, if your supervisor makes an unwelcome sexual advance or promises you a promotion for sexual favors, this is sexual harassment. Likewise, any physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature is harassment. 

Harassment does not have to be sexual. No one can harass you or make offensive remarks about you because you are a man or woman. 

Exceptions to sexual harassment

The sexual harassment laws are specific. The following do not constitute sexual harassment: 

  • Offhanded comments 
  • Isolated incidents 
  • Simple teasing 

Simple teasing and offhanded comments cross the line when it becomes repetitive and frequent enough to create a hostile work environment. You should never fear what your colleagues or supervisors say to you. Additionally, if the harassment results in your firing or demotion, this may also constitute sexual harassment. 

When it comes to sexual harassment, the perpetrator does not have to be someone you work with or work for. Instead, it can also be a customer or client.