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How do I recognize sexual harassment in the workplace?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2023 | Workplace sexual discrimination comes in many forms

It’s every employer’s responsibility to foster a safe and inclusive environment for all employees. But unfortunately, employers don’t have control over all workplace interactions; despite your office being safe and inclusive, you might still face challenges from time to time.  

Sexual harassment remains a significant concern in many workplaces. As an employee, you should take it upon yourself to identify and address instances of sexual harassment to protect your well-being. This article aims to provide comprehensive insights into recognizing sexual harassment in the workplace and empowering individuals to take appropriate action.

What is sexual harassment?

Before diving into identifying and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, let’s look at the definition and scope of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that creates an uncomfortable, hostile or offensive work environment. It encompasses various forms, including but not limited to:

  • Verbal harassment: Inappropriate comments, jokes or conversations with explicit sexual content
  • Non-verbal harassment: Lewd gestures, offensive images or explicit written material
  • Physical harassment: Unwanted physical contact, advances or inappropriate touching
  • Quid pro quo: When employment decisions or benefits are conditioned upon the acceptance of sexual advances

Understanding the definition and scope of sexual harassment is the first step toward recognizing and addressing the issue. Having knowledge of such behaviors helps empower you to stand up for yourself and protect victims from further harm. Moreover, spreading this knowledge can foster a workplace culture that condemns sexual harassment.

What are the signs and indicators of sexual harassment in the workplace?

Now that you know the scope and definition of sexual harassment, let’s look at the signs and indicators of sexual harassment in the workplace. While each situation may differ, some common signs include the following:

  • Unwanted advances: Persistent and unwelcome sexual attention, such as flirting or inappropriate comments
  • Inappropriate jokes or comments: Verbal remarks that contain sexual innuendos, explicit language or demeaning content
  • Display of explicit material: Sharing or displaying pornographic material, offensive images or explicit written content
  • Unwanted physical contact: Touching, hugging or any physical interaction without consent
  • Retaliation or intimidation: Threats, adverse employment actions or isolation targeted at individuals who resist or report sexual harassment

Have you witnessed or experienced sexual harassment in your workplace? If so, you should report the incidents to HR and, if necessary, pursue legal action to protect your interests.