We are all potential victims of sexual harassment no matter where we go or what we do. However, people who work together are particularly at risk because coworkers tend to spend more time together in close quarters. Whether it’s a conversation during a coffee break or via after hours texting, a work conversation can get personal which, in turn, can easily go sideways. Further, when the comments, looks or behaviors are coming from someone who has seniority over you, an uncomfortable situation can become downright overwhelming.
What is sexual harassment in the workplace? The answer to this question depends on who is involved and what the specifics of the situation might be. For example, unwelcome sexual advances would be considered sexual harassment in most any situation. More specifically, the following types of behaviors should be reported immediately:
- Bribes (directly or indirectly) for sexual activity
- Inappropriate sexually suggestive jokes
- Sexual innuendo and other comments that make others feel uncomfortable
- Requesting sexual favors
- Unwelcome touching
- Displays of sexual material
- Actual sexual assault or attempted sexual assault
Men and women can both be victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Title VII, in fact, protects any employee from sexual harassment. This includes male, female and transgender. Additionally, the attacker does not have to be a member of the opposite sex. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment. Period.
A common misconception is that an action can only be considered sexual harassment if the perpetrator is a direct supervisors. This is simply untrue. In fact, the inappropriate behavior may be considered sexual harassment if the attacker is a co-worker, a non-direct supervisor or manager and even someone not employed by your company. This might include a delivery person or someone doing construction in your workspace, for example.
If you feel you are being sexually harassed or are uncomfortable at work and are not sure if it is sexual harassment, it’s important to stand up for yourself. Contact a knowledgeable employment lawyer who will explain your legal rights and fight to protect your job and your interests.
Contact Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC in Hazlet or East Brunswick, New Jersey for a confidential consultation. Call us today.