A male coworker touching a female coworker's shoulders, one of many examples of sexual harassment.

Twelve Behaviors You May Not Realize Are Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a common problem throughout the country. Unfortunately, many forms of sexual harassment go unreported because employees may not recognize that they are the victims of sexual harassment, which is also considered gender discrimination and is illegal. If you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or threatened by any actions at work, it can be worth your time to discuss your situation with an experienced Washington sexual harassment attorney. Below are several examples of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

It can sometimes be difficult to recognize sexual harassment. Many people are familiar with overt forms of sexual harassment, such as unwanted touching, overtly sexual comments, or demanding sexual favors. However, there are other ways to harass an employee sexually. For example, inappropriate conduct that occurs regularly or enough to make an employee feel intimidated, threatened, or uncomfortable could be a form of sexual harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment can include:

  • Repeatedly touching an employee, even in a non-sexual manner such as touching an employee’s arm or placing a hand on an employee’s shoulder.
  • Repeating jokes of a sexual nature.
  • An employee discussing his or her sex life in front of other employees.
  • Asking an employee about his or her sex life or sexual preferences.
  • Giving another employee repeated compliments based on the employee’s appearance.
  • Making sexist comments.
  • Sharing sexually explicit or inappropriate videos or images.
  • Whistling or staring at someone in an offensive or sexually suggestive manner.
  • Purposefully brushing up against another person.
  • Making offensive comments or jokes about another person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Making sexual gestures.
  • Giving sexually explicit or sexually inappropriate gifts to co-workers.

The above examples are just a few of the actions that could rise to the level of sexual harassment in the workplace. Almost any actions or comments that have a sexual nature that make someone feel uncomfortable could meet the definition of sexual harassment. 

It is also good to remember that the victim of harassment does not need to be someone of the opposite sex. Also, the person does not need to be the actual recipient of harassment. Anyone affected by offensive conduct could be the victim of sexual harassment. In addition, even if two coworkers are carrying on a consensual sexual relationship, other employees could have a legal claim for sexual harassment. Further, even if there is sexual activity between two people, the behavior could still be found to be unwelcome and constitute sexual harassment, especially if the behavior is initiated by a supervisor.  

What Should You Do If You Have Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Most companies have procedures and policies in place to handle complaints of sexual harassment. Refer to your employee handbook to determine if your company has a procedure in place. If you believe that you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, we suggest that you:

  • Make notes of each incident of sexual harassment, including the date, time, and nature of the harassment.
  • Note each time you have told the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop immediately.
  • Make a note of any eyewitnesses to the sexual harassment.
  • If the sexual harassment is in written form, make a hard copy of the document for yourself and a copy to include with your complaint.
  • Use the procedures in place to report sexual harassment at your company. You should keep a copy of your written complaint for your records. If there is no policy in place, report the sexual harassment to your supervisor and the human resources department.
  • Contact an attorney immediately for advice and guidance regarding your legal rights for pursuing a sexual harassment claim. Your employer, supervisors, managers, unions, agents, and others may be held civilly liable for damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Contact Sapphire Legal Today for Help

If you are afraid of retaliation, such as being fired or demoted, for reporting sexual harassment at work, you should consult with a Washington sexual harassment attorney to learn more about your legal rights and to discuss the steps you need to take to protect yourself and your job. Contact a Washington sexual harassment attorney for help.