Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.
Unwelcome sexual advances
Requests for sexual favors
Hostile verbal or physical conduct based on gender
Sexual harassment may or may not involve any physical contact, and words alone may be enough to constitute either type of harassment. Conduct that includes unwanted sexual touching, sexual assault, or rape is not only illegal sexual harassment, but is also a crime. For more info on what constitutes sexual harassment, see this.
Sexual harassment is about power dynamics, more so than about sex, and is often about putting a woman or LGBTQ person “in their place.” Thus workers perceived as having “less power” in a workplace are more at risk of harassment, like women, immigrants, or LGBTQ workers.
Most sexual harassment goes unreported. Feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment can come from the trauma of being harassed and prevents people from reporting. Workers are also afraid of
being fired for making a complaint, or don’t want to cause a coworker to lose a job. It is necessary to understand that retaliation for reporting harassment is illegal. But also, if sexual harassment is not addressed, words can turn to assault or other workers can be in danger of the same conduct. It is important to support coworkers who are experiencing sexual harassment, offer to go with her to report it and be a witness, offer to help him seek legal help. And if you witness sexual harassment in your workplace, you can report it yourself.
No one should put up with sexual harassment in the workplace, it affects everyone. It is very important to tell the harasser to STOP and to report harassment to someone who will take it seriously.
If you don't know what to do about sexual harassment at your workplace, read this and talk to your employer or contact us for more information.