Sexual Harassment At Work? It's Not OK
Robert Wiśniewski, Esq. I
April 21, 2020
Federal, state and local laws protect employees from being harassed because of that person’s sex. Sexual harassment can take on many forms and depends on the context: it may be a demand for a sexual favor by one’s superior in exchange for a promotion or preferential treatment (known as a quid pro quo), or it may be an atmosphere or an environment created by one’s superiors or coworkers, in which one feels very uncomfortable because of one’s sex (known as a hostile work environment). Sexual harassment may take the form of one isolated but extreme incident (such as exposing oneself to others or groping someone’s genital areas at an office party), or it may be a series of incidents, acts or comments of a sexual nature or comments about the opposite sex. Men as well as women may be victims of sexual harassment, and the victim and the harasser may be of the same sex.
Examples of sexual harassment include:
- Indecent exposure to a coworker
- Unwanted physical contact, including unnecessary touching, hugging, or back and neck messages
- Hovering or intentionally brushing up against someone
- Suggestive facial expressions, whistles, catcalls, or howling
- Asking questions about one’s sex life or other intimate issues
- Making explicit statements, comments, or innuendos about a person
- Spreading lies or rumors about a person’s sex life
- Watching porn on the computer or one’s smartphone in the presence of others
- Sending unwanted sexual communications by phone, letter, text message, or email
- Unwelcome invitations to date or have sex
- Referring to an adult as a sweetie, girl, hunk, toots, doll or babe
It is very important to speak up upon witnessing or experiencing offensive conduct to make it clear that such comments or behavior are unacceptable and unwelcome. In larger organizations, one must follow the procedures for reporting such incidents established by the management or laid out in the company Employee Handbook.
It is also unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee or treat him or her less favorably for lodging a complaint about sexual harassment or for terminating a consensual relationship.