As a worker, you expect to receive fair treatment at your place of employment. Unfortunately, either co-workers or management could harass you, affecting your happiness with your work and even the likelihood of a promotion in the future.
Sexual harassment at work not only affects how other people view you but also how you do your job. Understanding the different forms that sexual harassment sometimes takes can make it easier to stand up for yourself when other people have turned your place of employment into a toxic environment.
- Unwanted advances, solicitation or flirting
Someone asking you out once or attempting to flirt isn’t necessarily sexual harassment. Both the tone that they employ and your reaction will influence whether flirting and other advances constitute harassment.
If you let the other person know that their request makes you uncomfortable and you have no interest, they should respect that. A single request likely doesn’t constitute harassment.
However, repeated attempts to flirt or solicit a date, especially if you have expressed your discomfort and asked them to stop, might constitute harassment. Additionally, if someone tries to leverage your career success to coerce you into agreement, it may constitute quid pro quo harassment.
- Treating you differently because of your sex
Maybe you are the only woman on a team of men. Once you told them that their brand of humor offends you, you now notice that the conversation stops whenever you walk into the room. They can’t bother themselves with behaving in an appropriate way but instead become hostile toward you and make you feel excluded because you don’t appreciate the inappropriate culture at your workplace.
If your sex leads to staff or management treating you differently, you could experience career consequences. Especially if the behavior leads to feeling unsafe or isolated at your place of work, it could constitute a hostile work environment which is one form of sexual harassment.
- Gossiping about you or joking at your expense
Someone whose advances you declined might start spreading rumors to your co-workers about what they think you do when you aren’t at work. They might also make inappropriate jokes about your appearance or intimate relationships. The same is true of someone of your same sex who dislikes you or feels jealous.
Malicious, sex-based jokes and gossip can damage someone’s work relationship and produce a hostile work environment. They might also lead to others having unfounded and unrealistic ideas about someone’s behavior or personality, which might lead to unwanted advances. Telling people to stop when you face sexual harassment on the job may not be easy. You may need to go to human resources or management if you don’t feel comfortable addressing the issue with the perpetrators directly.
If your employer doesn’t take steps to protect you, you may have no choice but to take legal action to stop the sexual harassment and to protect others who might work for the company in the future.