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Behaviors that constitute sexual harassment

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All employees should feel safe in the workplace. Men and women alike should feel like they can do their jobs without worry about harassment, abuse or unfair treatment. Unfortunately, the reality for many is that they deal with sexual harassment on a regular basis from a superior or co-worker, and it’s easy to blow it off as nothing if you aren’t aware what behaviors constitute sexual harassment.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment can occur with supervisors throughout the entire company, co-workers, clients and customers. Any individual who makes you feel uncomfortable in the workplace may be harassing you. Both men and women experience harassment, and you can be harassed by an individual of the same sex.

Inappropriate, off-color jokes

Even the simplest off-color joke can be considered sexual harassment if it makes someone else uncomfortable. Jokes about race, sex, ethnicity or sexual orientation should be left out of the workplace.

Unwelcome physical touch

Unwelcome touch doesn’t have to be sexual in nature in order to fall under sexual harassment. Anytime someone initiates touch on purpose, when it isn’t wanted, it may be harassment. Employees should have strictly defined boundaries about what touching is appropriate in the office.

Derogatory comments

Women and men should be treated equally in the office, but sometimes a joke starts or a comment is made about the other sex. Any comment that is derogatory to an individual’s gender can constitute sexual harassment. You may think your joke about men or women is funny, but it may not be worth the consequences if shared in the office.

Exchanging sexual favors

In situations of sexual harassment, a superior or executive may use sexual favors as a way to give an employee a better chance at a promotion. Some may offer a certain job or raise if the person does what they ask. Any time your boss asks you to perform a sexual favor in exchange for something, it’s sexual harassment.

Derogatory pictures

Along with inappropriate jokes, derogatory comments and unsolicited physical touch, derogatory pictures can also fall into the category of sexual harassment. Employees should always be aware of what pictures are in their offices, on their computer screens or even on their phones as a background. Any derogatory pictures shown may offend a co-worker and lead to consequences.

Sexual harassment is a problem that deserves serious treatment by everyone in the office. Those who feel they may have been harassed in the workplace may benefit from speaking to an attorney to understand their rights and options.