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What actions constitute sexual harassment?

While at work, you may have encountered a situation where certain gestures or exchanges left you feeling uncomfortable or even pressured.

Learning more about what actions constitute sexual harassment may help you know what to do next.

Definition

A hostile work environment is one with a history of intimidation and unwelcome commenting. According to FindLaw, these incidents must disrupt your typical day in order to be considered severe enough for legal action. The intensity of the actions is also taken into account, along with the number of times they occured.

The EEOC identifies requests for sexual favors or suggestive and unwelcome comments as two major examples. Secret workplace deals where one person coerces another into exchanging these favors for raises or other benefits are illegal. Intimidating workers by threatening to fire someone unless he or she complies with harassment contributes to a hostile environment. This dynamic is typically known as quid pro quo harassment.

Role in the company

A harasser may be someone who has power over employees. A boss, a supervisor, or another person who oversees work activities can all potentially cause a hostile environment. This power imbalance can lead to situations where you hesitate to report any problems for fear of getting fired.

Additionally, coworkers who hold no authority over you may also be perpetrators, along with non-employees.

Unwanted interactions

This hostile environment affects both men and women. Although many commonly think of female victims and male perpetrators, anyone can be at risk when it comes to sexual harrasment.

Trying to combat verbal statements, along with requests for favors, can leave some workers feeling alone in their worry. However, sexual harassment is a type of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.

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