You may think you understand what sexual harassment looks like. The common understanding of is simple: someone purposefully touching or hitting on you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. However, there’s much more to harassing behavior than that.
The behavior is defined as “unwelcome verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that includes but is not limited to sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and any other conduct of a sexual nature.” As long as you’re suffering from unwelcome behavior connected to your gender or orientation, you may be getting harassed.
This includes things you may not have considered harmful in the past. These four examples demonstrate common but unnoticed forms of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Telling Lewd Jokes
Whether or not you’re the audience for lewd jokes or stories, they can still be considered harassment. If someone else in your workplace is talking about explicit topics where you can hear them, and they don’t stop when you ask them to, it counts as harmful.
It should not be your responsibility to move away from coworkers making lewd comments. If your workplace does not take steps to end the behavior after you notify your manager, you’re suffering from a hostile workplace.
Displaying Obscene Materials in the Workplace
Just like lewd jokes, explicit images can also make your workplace hostile. If your coworkers display obscene materials such as calendars or screensavers in shared spaces, they may be harassing you. If the images are unwelcome and remain up after you file a complaint, you might have grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Insulting Your Appearance, Gender Identity, or Orientation
It’s often assumed that harassment has to imply interest in the victim. That’s not true. Harassment can also include insulting or disparaging comments about someone’s appearance, body, gender, or orientation.
Any frequent or egregious unwelcome comments can qualify. For example, someone joking about your body and how they wouldn’t want to perform explicit activities with you is harassment, just like requesting that you perform intimate favors for them.
Accidents happen. Sometimes, someone may brush past you in the hallway and accidentally touch you inappropriately. However, an accident is a one-time event. If someone is frequently “accidentally” touching you in ways you don’t like, they may be found to be harassing you.
If you believe that these touches may not be real accidents, you can keep a journal tracking the incidents. If it seems like one or two people have these accidents regularly, you have proof that the behavior is likely purposeful and grounds to file a hostile workplace complaint.
Stand Up Against All Forms of Sexual Harassment
You don’t have to put up with any explicit behavior that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re facing unwelcome conduct, comments, or materials of an obscene nature in the workplace, you’re within your rights to request that it stop. If it doesn’t end, then you need to get legal help. Reach out to the experts at AM+F, LLP, to discuss your situation and learn about your options to end sexual harassment for good.