It can be difficult to determine whether you or someone else at your job might be the victim of sexual harassment. This is because the signs of workplace harassment might not be obvious. Sexual harassment can take many forms, including overt actions such as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, unwanted touching, and verbal harassment. However, it can also include behavior that is less obvious, including offensive comments about your gender and other similar things. Here are some signs from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler that you might be the victim of workplace sexual harassment.
1. Feelings of discomfort
Sexual harassment can be subjective and might be measured in feelings of discomfort. Some inappropriate workplace conduct can be subtle and include things like unwanted touching that the harasser tries to disguise as an accident or innuendos. People can use online contact to harass co-workers as well. Whether the behavior is overt or covert, the primary issue is whether it is unwanted. To determine whether a co-worker’s behavior might be sexual harassment, trust yourself. If you experience discomfort because of his or her behavior toward you, it might indicate that you are being sexually harassed. You can use your innate feelings of discomfort as an initial guide. If you think that your co-worker might be harassing you, an employment attorney can help you figure out the situation and what your next steps might be.
2. Unwelcome physical contact
Some harassers use unwelcome touching as a way to target victims in the workplace. A co-worker might brush against you and claim that it was an accident, but he or she does this sort of thing repeatedly. He or she might also rub your shoulders, hug you, stare at you, or block you from leaving a room. Even if your co-worker tries to frame unwanted touching as an accident or a harmless joke, you have the right to be free from unwanted touching at your job.
3. Differential treatment
Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination and is illegal when it occurs in the workplace. One sign that sexual harassment might be occurring is if you receive different treatment than others based on your sex. For example, if your boss singles out one gender and treats members of it differently than those of the opposite sex, this differential treatment might be a form of sexual harassment or discrimination. If you are treated differently at your job in a harmful way based on your sex, that type of conduct can be evidence of sexual harassment.
4. “No” not accepted
While it is not illegal to date a co-worker, it is often not a good idea. However, if someone makes unwanted advances to you at work when you have already declined, it can become illegal sexual harassment. If your co-worker has let you know that he or she is interested in pursuing a romantic relationship and persists even though you have declined, that could indicate sexual harassment.
5. Requests for sexual favors
One type of sexual harassment occurs when a person in a position of authority asks a supervisee for sexual favors in return for a job benefit or to avoid a negative job action. Called quid pro quo sexual harassment, an example could occur when your supervisor asks you to engage in sexual behavior while threatening to demote you if you turn him or her down. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also include offers of job benefits in exchange for sexual favors. For example, if your supervisor hinges a promotion on your agreement to go out on a date with him or her, that would be quid pro quo harassment. victims of this type of harassment can also include others in the workplace who are affected by a supervisor’s quid pro quo harassment involving another employee.
Bullying in the workplace can demoralize everyone. In some cases, workplace bullying is based on the bully’s sexual or romantic advances and can result in a hostile work environment. If someone else at work teases you about your sexuality, body, or gender or tries to bully you into going out on a date with him or her, you might be the victim of sexual harassment.
7. Sexual jokes or displays of sexual images
In some cases, a person will tell sexual jokes or display pornographic images at work. If someone behaves in this way at your job, you could be the victim of sexual harassment even if the person is not pursuing you for a sexual relationship. This type of conduct has no place at work and should not be tolerated.
8. Several victims
Many harassers target more than one coworker for sexual harassment. If your co-worker has a pattern of engaging in inappropriate behavior at work in which he or she targets more than one person, you could have grounds to file a sexual harassment complaint. When other people have experienced similar treatment, what they have experienced could be evidence to support your claim.
People rely on job security to make financial ends meet. If you have declined a supervisor’s sexual advances at your job, you might feel as if your job might be in danger. Just like sexual harassment, retaliation for turning down unwelcome sexual advances is also illegal. If you have been treated poorly at work, or your supervisor has taken an adverse job action against you after you have turned him or her down, you could have grounds to file a retaliation action in addition to a sexual harassment claim.
10. Feeling unsafe
People should feel safe when they are at work. If the environment at your workplace makes you feel unsafe because of its sexual nature, that indicates that you might be the victim of sexual harassment.
Talk to an experienced harassment attorney
If you notice the signs that you might be the victim of sexual harassment at your job, you should talk to an experienced attorney at Swartz Swidler to learn about your rights and how to put an end to this type of behavior. Call us today at (856) 785-7420 for a free and confidential consultation.