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Sexual harassment is frustrating to experience in and out of the workplace, but sometimes it may be difficult to discern whether what you are experiencing would fit the definition. Sometimes, what might be friendly banter will be taken the wrong way or be a simple misunderstanding, and other times there is something more pernicious behind it. Even in the former, however, this can still constitute harassment, as even if one did not intend for it to come off that way, the feelings of the person affected do still matter. So here we will help you understand different examples of sexual harassment that may occur in the workplace.

Workplace sexual harassment examples

Some types of sexual harassment are more subtle, while others are far more explicit. The former is a little trickier to identify, as there may be plausible deniability behind the words or actions of the person who you believe engaged in sexual harassment. One example of a form of sexual harassment that may go under the radar is inappropriate touching. Some touching may be more explicit — for example, if someone grabs your butt in an obvious way — while other types of touching, like accidentally brushing against your butt, maybe harder to discern intent from.

This may be an accident, but the possibility exists that someone intentionally engaged in subtle touching in order to create the impression that it was an accident. Even putting a hand on your shoulder may be seen as sexual harassment, particularly depending on other contextual situations. In general, you and your co-workers and employers should avoid making physical contact with one another without receiving prior consent from one another or if absolutely necessary. No matter how playful or innocent the contact is intended to be, that may not be how it is taken by the contact’s recipient.

Sexual harassment can also be non-physical, such as through verbal methods. For example, a more extreme example could be someone proposing sex to you or another co-worker, or other general sexual advances. On the other hand, verbal sexual harassment could constitute something without sexual intent, such as telling an inappropriate sexual joke. Such things may seem innocuous and done in good fun, but they have a good chance of making a lot of people feel very uncomfortable. Their co-workers did not consent to be exposed to such sexual content, after all.

Sexual harassment not only creates discomfort for the victim of it; bad though it may be, it creates a rippling effect for everyone. Sexual harassment could create a hostile work environment, causing the victim to become reticent to engage with the person who touched or spoke to them inappropriately (or even people with similar qualities to that person). This, in turn, may prevent them from being as efficient as they can be and ultimately cause their work productivity to suffer, hurting both them and those who may rely on their productivity to do their job as well. Sexual harassment may cause distress in certain people who have faced unwanted sexual incidents in the past. It is not at all uncommon for survivors of such behavior to have some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder relating to it.

People who suffer from sexual harassment in the workplace tend to go one of two ways. One way is the quid quo pro, where superior attempts, successfully or not, to coerce someone into giving them sexual favors. This may be done either through promising them some kind of benefit for doing it or may even involve the employer threatening to take something away or withhold something they were already promised if they do not comply. A major issue that can be faced in one of these situations is retaliatory practices on the harasser’s part.

All too often, in situations where you are harassed by someone with power over you, any attempt by you to rebuff their advances may be met with punishment by someone jilted or offended that they were turned down by you. This may take the form of you being denied a promotion, being given a disproportionately large workload compared to before the harassment occurred, being demoted from your current position, or even being fired from your position. It does not matter if you are male, female, non-binary, whatever — you have the right to reject such advances without having your career harmed.

An unfortunate thing that happens far too often is the bystander syndrome, where people will notice sexual harassment occur, and they will say nothing — either because they assume someone else will speak up, or because they are worried about the consequences if they get themselves involved in the situation. At times, things like this can make dealing with a sexual harassment incident seem insurmountable, leaving you with no way to get out of the situation. If you do decide that enough is enough and that you need to seek the help of an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment incidents, contacting the attorneys at Gilleon Law Firm can help sort all of this out quickly and efficiently. No one should be treated in such a disrespectful fashion.