Sexual harassment in the workplace is not always easy to spot. The line between a playful act of fondness and inappropriate behavior can be quite blurry at times. However, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual demands or requests, advances and other forms of suggestive or physical conduct.
Sexual harassment does not have to be explicit. It is important to note that sexual harassment can also include offensive comments about your sex. In order for this type of harassment to cross the legal line, it must be severe or frequent enough to influence an employment decision or cultivate a hostile work environment for the victim.
Here are common signs of sexual harassment that you need to look out for in the workplace.
Unwelcome physical contacts
Any unwanted physical contact like pinching, touching, kissing, patting or groping can amount to sexual harassment. What one person considers an “innocent and friendly” expression of affection can actually be viewed as an unpleasant invasion of the other person’s private space.
Being subjected to sexually explicit jokes, images and videos
Sexually-oriented remarks, gestures, or noises about a person’s sexuality or their sexual experiences are not welcome in the workplace as these can create potentially hostile work environments. Any of these can be in-person or in the form of phone calls, emails or social media interactions. Sexual harassment can extend beyond the workplace. Incidents like sending sexual videos, images and texts outside of the work hours can amount to harassment as well.
Quid pro quo demands
A quid pro quo, or something in return for something, happens when individuals in positions of power promise certain rewards in return for sexual favors. For instance, if your immediate boss is asking for a sexual relationship in return for a promotion or pay rise, then this can qualify as sexual harassment. Harassment can also happen when someone is threatening you with certain repercussions for rejecting their sexual advances.
Sexual harassment can greatly affect the victim as well as the organization’s reputation. Knowing how to spot is the first, and most important, step in ridding the workplace of this vice.