Sometimes sexual harassment is glaringly obvious—but at other times, it can be difficult to identify. All you know is that the behavior is making you uncomfortable.
If you’re not sure whether you’re being sexually harassed, ask yourself these questions.
- Is someone making comments about your body?
There’s a difference between innocent “compliments” and those that cross lines. For instance, there’s a difference between “I like your outfit” and “your legs look great in that skirt.”
If someone at work makes a comment that calls attention to your body or appearance in a way that makes you uncomfortable, it may constitute sexual harassment.
- Are people making comments about your (or any) gender?
Inappropriate comments don’t need to be directed at you personally to be sexual harassment. If you often overhear coworkers making disparaging comments about people of your (or any) sex or gender, this can create a hostile work environment.
- Are you being touched in a way you don’t like?
Unwanted touching is often one of the clearest examples of sexual harassment—but sometimes, even this can be subtle. Some clear and less obvious examples include:
- Unwanted massages
- Slapping, pinching, grabbing, or groping
- Hugging or kissing without permission—or even attempting to
- Intentionally rubbing against you
- Coercing you into touching the other person
- Manipulating you into giving in to sexual demands
This is not a complete list. If you’re being touched against your will in any way, you may be a victim of sexual harassment.
- Can you ask for the behavior to stop?
One way to tell whether something is intentional harassment is to see what happens when you ask the person to stop.
Well-intentioned people do occasionally slip up and make inappropriate comments or have awkward interactions. But if you bring it to the person’s attention and ask them not to repeat the behavior, they should stop.
If they don’t stop when you ask them to, you may have a sexual harassment problem.
- Are you being offered things in exchange for sexual favors?
One type of sexual harassment is called quid pro quo. It means “this for that.”
If someone offers you things in exchange for sexual favors—such as a job, promotion, raise, or not to be punished or fired—this is a clear instance of sexual harassment.
- What happens when you turn down a date?
It’s not illegal to ask someone out at work. But it can be problematic when the rejected party does any of these things after you turn them down:
- Continues to try to persuade you to date them
- Offers favors in exchange for a date
- Threatens repercussions if you refuse
- Retaliates or treats you worse after you refuse
- Do your coworkers talk about sex?
If someone at work often steers the conversation toward sex, asks your opinion on sexually-explicit movies or other content, or questions you about your sexual or romantic life, this could be a sign of harassment.
- Are people of your sex or gender treated differently?
Are people of your sex or gender a minority in the workplace? Are you treated differently than others?
For example, some claims of sexual harassment include singling out women in a male-dominated field for extra scrutiny, criticism, and repercussions—while men in the same job are not held to such high standards.
- Are you being asked to look at sexually explicit materials?
Sexual harassment doesn’t just involve explicit comments or unwanted touching. It can also involve—for example—hanging a pornographic poster in the break room or sending around an offensive joke over email.
If you’re being exposed to pornographic imagery, jokes, song lyrics, or other materials or content in the workplace, this could add up to harassment.
- Do any of these scenarios look familiar to you?
If they do, it may be time to talk to a lawyer.
An employment lawyer can help you identify what’s happening—and decide what to do about it. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation.