Sexual harassment can be difficult to recognize. The law takes into consideration the severity of the offense and the frequency of the behavior. For example, an isolated incident or an offhand comment at your expense may not be enough for you to lodge a sexual harassment complaint, though it may be enough to confront the person displaying the behavior or express concerns informally to your supervisor.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as pervasive behavior of a sexual nature that creates an offensive or hostile work environment. Understanding the different forms it can take can help you recognize it in your workplace and take the appropriate steps.
1. Requests for sexual favors
You may receive an offer of a positive employment action, such as a promotion or raise, in exchange for sexual contact. This is a particular type of harassment called quid pro quo sexual harassment. Only someone who has the authority to take employment actions either for or against you can commit this type of harassment.
Other types of harassment contribute to a hostile work environment. Anyone you work with, as well as clients or customers of your employer, can create a hostile environment by engaging in one of the following behaviors.
2. Asking sexual questions
Your sexual history, orientation and current relationships have no bearing on your ability to do your job. It is inappropriate for anyone at your workplace to ask you questions of this nature. This information is private unless you choose to disclose it.
3. Sending explicit communications
You can consider it sexual harassment if a co-worker sends you texts, letters or emails of a sexually explicit nature.
You have the right to a work environment where you feel safe. If you feel sadness, shame or anger over treatment you have received of a sexual nature, it is better to report it than to try to endure in silence.