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What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

In modern society, sexual harassment can take on many subtle forms – especially in the workplace. The actions aren’t overtly physical, and they occur insidiously. For many, it isn’t easy to recognize when someone is crossing the line. Offensive behavior happens in various circumstances, which can jeopardize the safety of your work environment.

What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is when someone is hostile towards a co-worker based on their sex/gender. Keep in mind that gender encompasses someone’s sexual orientation and other identifying traits. Workplace sexual harassment consists of two primary categories, which include:


  • Quid pro quo harassment. This occurs when employees request sexual favors from victims in exchange for tangible job benefits. Some examples include promises of promotions or salary increases.
  • Hostile work environment. This involves employees who impose unwelcome physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature on their co-workers.


Quid pro quos are often easy to identify because it usually entails an explicit request. However, inappropriate behavior is a little more challenging to detect, but we can help explain what qualifies as sexual harassment.


Types of Inappropriate Behavior

There are many overt signs of inappropriate behavior, which include unwanted touching, kissing, or explicit comments. However, signs of sexual harassment aren’t always obvious. Victims often won’t notice that it’s happening because the behavior isn’t extreme to where it makes them feel intimidated or threatened.


Listed below are subtle forms of inappropriate behavior that constitute sexual harassment in the workplace:


  • Repeated and persistent compliments or remarks about someone’s appearance
  • Discussions about someone’s sex life
  • Circulation of sexually explicit photos among co-workers
  • Text messages or emails that are sexually suggestive
  • Unwanted gifts from other co-workers
  • Sexual rumors spread about co-workers


Hostile work environments are when any offensive conduct happens repeatedly. If you notice a pattern of behavior, you should immediately take action to end it, especially when it rises to a level of sexual harassment.


Other Facts About Workplace Sexual Harassment

We also want to touch on a few other facts regarding sexual harassment that not many people know. The main thing to remember is that derogatory comments don’t have to be sexual in nature to constitute sexual harassment. For example, employees who perpetuate stereotypes based on sex or gender create a hostile work environment.


We also often forget that co-workers aren’t the only ones who commit sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are responsible for protecting you from inappropriate behavior by customers, clients, vendors, business partners, and more. If you’re the victim of outside harassment, tell your employer immediately.


Finally, you should never forget that sexual harassment happens to everyone, regardless of gender. Therefore, there is certain evidence that you will need to prove your case. We often think of women as victims of inappropriate behavior from men. However, men can also experience harassment from female co-workers. Furthermore, same-sex harassment is also known to occur in workplaces.


What to Do When You’re the Victim of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

At HHJ Trial Attorneys, we handle many cases involving workplace sexual harassment. Depending on the parameters of your case, it could benefit you to pursue legal action against your employer. We can even help you recover damages due to injuries and emotional distress.


It’s our job to hold your employer accountable for their actions. If you were exposed to a hostile work environment, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can discuss your legal options and answer any questions about workplace sexual harassment.



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