Sexual harassment is generally defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s job or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Unlawful sexual harassment can include touching or comments. But not all teasing or offhand remarks will constitute harassment. It is only when sexual behavior or comments are so frequent or severe that they create a hostile or offensive work environment that illegal sexual harassment occurs.
A harasser might be a victim’s supervisor, a co-worker, or even a client or customer. Both the victim and the harasser can be either male or female, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex
What should I do if I am being sexually harassed?
There are several steps employees should take if they are being sexually harassed. The first is reporting. Employees who are being sexually harassed sometimes don’ report it, whether out of fear from retaliation, shame, the hope that it will go away, or for several other understandable reasons. However, if you are being sexually harassed, it is important that you report the harassment to your supervisor, human resources, or another management employee. If the harasser is your supervisor, report it to someone else.
Should I report sexual harassment at work?
Yes. First, the law protects employees from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Conversely, an employer has an obligation to stop sexual harassment only if it knows or should know harassment is occurring. If a victim of harassment unreasonably fails to report the harassment, and the employer does not have actual or constructive knowledge of the harassment, the employer may be able to avoid liability for the harassment.
Second, many sexual harassers will continue their behavior unless someone stops them. What might start out as offensive comments can escalate to touching and even sexual assault. Moreover, many sexual harassers will target multiple victims over time. An employee who does not report the harassment runs the risk that he or she will not be the harasser’s last victim, and that the next one will suffer even worse harassment.
These are just some of the reasons to report sexual harassment. There are others as well. Regardless of the reason, it is important that employees report sexual harassment whenever it exists in the workplace.