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Is it sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. However, it can sometimes be difficult to spot sexual harassment when it is happening to you.

Not only is sexual harassment at work not a novel concept, it is happening at an extremely high rate. A recent survey found that over 80 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their life. It is not only happening to women, though, as 43 percent of men have experienced this type of harassment.

Types of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is not limited to unwanted sexual advances. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “harassment does not have to be sexual in nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.” Sexual harassment can be verbal, physical and even nonverbal. Examples include:

  • Inappropriate jokes, teasing or discussion of sexual activities
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Sexual advances, including inappropriate physical touch or gestures
  • Cat-calling or whistling
  • Any unwelcome behavior that is not consented to

Quid pro quo vs. hostile work environment

Federal law classifies sexual harassment cases in two ways: either quid pro quo or hostile work environment.

  • Quid pro quo: this type of sexual harassment occurs when one’s supervisor requests sexual favors in exchange for workplace promotions or requires sexual favors in exchange for being able to keep their job.
  • Hostile work environment: Any conduct that creates an unwelcome work environment in relation to the individual’s sex.

What to do if you are being sexually harassed

If you are being sexually harassed by a supervisor or coworker at work, there are things that you can do. It is wise to write down or record the incidents so that you have evidence to make a case. If the harassment is happening by someone other than your supervisor, you may want to report it to someone in a supervisorial position, or the HR department.

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