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What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

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What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions.”

Certain types of behavior are considered minor and thus can be brushed off unless the behavior is a recurring one:

  • Comments about a person’s body
  • Jokes of a sexual nature
  • Request for dates
  • Request for sexual favors
  • Spreading rumors of a person’s sex life
  • Touching another person’s clothing
  • Pictures, screensavers, or emails of a sexual nature

Other types of behavior are much more severe and thus should be addressed immediately:

  • Exposure of inappropriate body parts
  • Threats of physical violence
  • Battery, or attempt thereof
  • Rape, or attempt thereof

Should All Sexually Oriented Conversations Be Banned in the Workplace?

To expect people who work together to not flirt, joke, and even date is unrealistic. To tell people that they can only talk about business-related matters is also an unattainable goal.

A good general rule is to be sensitive to the reactions of others.

Try to avoid:

  • Sexual behavior
  • Topics that may be offensive to others

Avoiding Sexual Harassment When Complimenting Co-Workers

Co-workers are often fearful of complimenting one another for fear of sexual harassment claims. Compliments by themselves are not illegal, but if they focus on appearance more than on quality of work, there may be a sexual harassment problem.

Still not sure what may be appropriate behavior at your workplace? You can always refer to your company’s sexual harassment policy. The policy may list the appropriate/inappropriate behaviors, as well as the disciplinary actions for sexual harassment claims.

Do I Need a Sexual Harassment Attorney?

Both investigating and proving a sexual harassment claim can be difficult. An employment lawyer can help you file within the deadlines for sexual harassment claims appropriate to your state. Additionally, the EEOC investigators are often overworked and cannot investigate your claim immediately. A lawyer will help you investigate your claim and inform you of the various options you can pursue.

Photo of page author Jessica Tran

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 01-25-2017 05:01 PM PST

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