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What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

By Gregory Thyberg on January 22, 2018


Workplace sexual harassmentNo matter what form, workplace harassment is unacceptable. Employees and supervisors must establish a safe and respectful environment where not one feels belittled or victimized. Sadly, different kinds of workplace harassment occur. That’s where the Sacramento, CA lawyers at ThybergLaw can help.

Issues of sexual harassment have been in the news for the last few months given high-profile stories about abuses of power in Hollywood and the news media. Because of this, we want to examine what constitutes sexual harassment and consider some examples of unacceptable behaviors at the workplace.

Sexual Harassment Defined

According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment refers to any sort of unwanted/unwelcome sexual advances or sexual conduct the results in a unsafe work environment. This can take many different forms.

Quid Pro Quo vs. Hostile Work Environment

There are two common types of sexual harassment:

  • Quid Pro Quo - In this kind of sexual harassment, supervisors expect subordinates or peers to tolerate sexual harassment in order to maintain employment, receive wages/promotions, or have other benefits at a company.
  • Hostile Work Environment - This kind of sexual harassment refers to an offensive work environment that’s poor for a person’s sense of well-being.

Suggestive or Explicit Messages

One example of sexual harassment is when a co-worker or supervisor sends you a sexually explicit or suggestive message, whether by email, a physical note, or by phone. This is bad conduct and not acceptable behavior in a professional setting.

Sharing Graphic Images with Others

In addition to sending sexual messages, some employees may share sexually explicit photos. This might be done online or in the break room. Some employees maven have explicit images in their office or cubicle. These are all forms of sexual harassment.

Inappropriate Conversations at Work

Sometimes while having a coffee break, employees might have sexually explicit and inappropriate conversations, which includes gossip. This can make others uncomfortable and result in a hostile work environment. These kinds of conversations do not belong at work.

Making Lewd Gestures at Employees

Lewd gestures of any kind should never be tolerated at work. Suggestive staring and other potentially sexual or threatening displays are also potentially classified as sexual harassment.

Questionable Comments About Appearance

When employees make remarks about other people’s appearance that objectify that person or are sexually explicit, that is a form of sexual harassment. Like inappropriate conversations, these kinds of comments are not acceptable.

Inappropriate Physical Contact

Boundaries are important at a workplace. No employee should be subjected to unwanted touching of any kind. This include overt groping and acts of sexual assault to unwanted touching of hands, arms, or shoulders. These are all considered forms of sexual harassment.

Asking Inappropriate Questions

When talking with another employee, it is inappropriate to ask sexually suggestive questions, or to make any sort of sexual implications. This kind of sexual harassment creates a negative workplace environment.

Offensive Statements About Identity

Sexual harassment also includes offensive comments about other people’s sexuality and gender identity. These subjects are off limits for appropriate workplace conversation and cannot be tolerated.

Learn More About Your Legal Options

No one should have to experience sexual harassment or advances at their workplace. For more information about your legal options, be sure to contact our team of workplace attorneys. The lawyers of ThybergLaw are here to help you in your time of legal need.

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