One of the harder aspects of addressing and reducing sexual harassment at work is how difficult it can be to explain. Sexual harassment involves the perception of the person victimized more than the intent of those engaging in abusive behavior.
People often worry that humor or good-natured camaraderie on the job might wind up misinterpreted as sexual harassment. Both types of behavior explained below could be a major warning sign that you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
- You have to endure unwanted advances, flirting or even touching
People in all kinds of jobs can find themselves facing inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
A customer might touch you inappropriately without your consent. A manager might jokingly claim that they won’t write you up for your late arrival to work if you let them take you on a date. A co-worker with no authority over you might repeatedly flirt or ask you out despite your making it clear you have no interest and that their behavior makes you uncomfortable.
Asking someone to stop can be difficult, so sometimes the better option is to make a report to management or human resources. The company should address those inappropriate behaviors whether they come from customers or co-workers.
- You feel isolated because your co-workers share sexual jokes
Someone’s sense of humor can definitely lead to sexual harassment. Examples include co-workers that make jokes that center the appearance, sexual behavior or sexual orientation of other employees, as well as lewd or explicit images or jokes shared in the workplace.
People made uncomfortable by such conduct often feel like they can’t speak up because they don’t want to disrupt the company culture, even though those explicit jokes or videos contribute to a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment that directly affects your career trajectory, such as quid pro quo harassment by a manager, and harassment that simply impacts your work performance, like a hostile work environment, can damage your earning potential and mental health.
If your employer doesn’t take reports of workplace sexual harassment seriously or if they retaliate against you for speaking up, you may need to take legal action to protect not only yourself but other future employees at the company.