Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

It can occur in any place or under any circumstance.  You see it happening to women mostly, but it happens to men also.  Sexual harassment is a problem that continues to permeate the workplace.  In 2007, the Department of Labor reported that 31% of female workers reported receiving some form of sexual harassment in the work place, and 16% of the 12,510 sexual harassment claims were filed by men.  You do not know when it is going to happen or who the perpetrator is going to be.  Recognizing sexual harassment is an important first step in dealing with it.

Understanding Sexual Harassment

To recognize sexual harassment in all its different forms, you have to know what it is. Sexual harassment, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, is unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that:

  • Explicitly or implicitly affects employment;
  • Interferes with a person’s work performance; or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

 Sexual Harassment Can Include:

  • Offensive jokes, gestures, words on clothing, and unwelcome comments.
  • Displaying sexually suggestive photos, drawings, objectives, emails or screensavers.
  • Inappropriate touching and any other type of bodily contact that is unwelcome.
  • Blocking or impeding physical movement.
  • Repeated requests for dates that are turned down or unwanted flirting.
  • Playing sexually suggestive music.
  • Making comments about a person’s body, clothes, or personal behaviors.

Two Forms of Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment generally falls under one of two forms:

Quid Pro Quo:  The harasser uses his/her position in the company to insist on sexual favors in exchange for benefits such as remaining employed, or promising a promotion.

Hostile Work Environment: The employee is subjected to persistent sexual comments, unwelcome touching, or offensive sexual materials as part of his/her work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in any place and at any time.  The perpetrator can be male or female, and can be a co-worker, supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor from another department, or someone who is not an employee of the company.


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