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Common Signs of Sexual Harassment at Work: What’s Illegal and What’s Not


Your store brought in a new manager. They seemed cool at first but one day you notice them staring at you. Soon, staring at you turns into touches on the shoulder and them getting way too far into your personal bubble for your liking.

Touching and not respecting your boundaries are two obvious signs of sexual harassment. If it makes you feel uncomfortable you can go to your HR department and report it. Sometimes sexual harassment isn’t as obvious as in the example above.

Check out this quick guide to learn more about what legally counts as sexual harassment and what doesn’t.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Before we dive into what counts as sexual harassment, we’re going to give you the basic definition. It can be boiled down to any inappropriate sexual behavior that humiliates someone or makes them feel uncomfortable.

It’s against the law for someone to make you feel uncomfortable when you’re trying to earn a paycheck. It’s also against the law for your employer to lash out against you for making a claim but we’ll get into that a little bit later.

Signs of Sexual Harassment

It’s important to note that sexual harassment is more than an employer or co-worker making a pass at you or touching you. There are actually quite a few things that count. Here are a few examples.

Someone you work with has a habit of showing you inappropriate sexual images, gifs, or videos on their phone. They’re not flirting with you per se but the content still makes you feel quite uncomfortable.

A co-worker started sending you sexual texts and letters, they have the habit of sharing lewd jokes with you in the break room, they’re staring at you in a sexual manner, they ask you questions about your past sexual history, and they’ve started making weird comments regarding your sexual orientation. These all count as sexual harassment.

What Doesn’t Count as Sexual Harassment?

Now that you’ve got a basic idea of what work sexual harassment is, let’s get into what it isn’t. One of your co-workers makes rude, negative comments about your religious beliefs. inappropriate comments such as this still count as harassment but it’s not sexual in any way.

Making offensive gestures only counts if it’s sexual in nature. Same with sharing inappropriate pictures and videos.

Other Considerations

There are some facts about sexual harassment that not many know about. So you know the full extent of your rights, we’re going to go over these with you.

Sexism Counts 

Your boss tends to leave you out of meetings and stick you with the easy tasks. When you ask them why they don’t trust you with the things they trust your male co-workers with, they say something about how a woman can’t handle it.

They also make little comments about how you should be more feminine and expect you to live up to common womanly stereotypes. While your boss hasn’t made an inappropriate pass at you, sexist comments and actions such as these still count as sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment by Customers 

You’ve got a customer who comes in often. They strike up a chat with you every time they’re at your store. Over time, this harmless chatter has gone to sexual comments and even hand stroking while you’re trying to ring up their grocery items.

Even though it’s not a co-worker displaying inappropriate behavior at work, you can still go to your boss with it. They’ll then be required by law to take action against the customer.

It Knows No Gender 

Many people are under the misconception that women are the only ones being sexually harassed in the workplace. Men are vulnerable to it as well. It’s not seen quite as often but it does happen.

No matter if it’s a man making inappropriate comments to a woman or a woman making sexual passes at a man, it all counts as harassment.

Know Your Legal Rights

If you feel like you’re being sexually harassed at work, you can then take legal action to get the situation resolved. Here’s a basic rundown of your rights.

Sexual Harassment Is Illegal

It is illegal for your employer to allow anyone to be sexually harassed under their watch. Once you reach out to them about an incident they are required by law to investigate and put a stop to it.

If your employer knows about the harassment and doesn’t take action against it or ignores your claim, you should reach out to a sexual harassment attorney.

Retaliation is Illegal 

One of the main reasons why people don’t report sexual harassment is because they’re afraid of backlash. We’re here to tell you that backlash is illegal.

Your boss can’t fire you or retaliate against you in any way if you report a sexual harassment incident. If they begin to cut your hours, demote you, leave you out of meetings that you were previously allowed to go to, or start treating you differently in general, you can seek help from the best sexual harassment lawyer NYC.

Everything You Need to Know About Sexual Harassment  

Nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable when they’re trying to earn a paycheck. If you’ve become the victim of sexual comments, inappropriate touching, strange messages, or any of the other common signs of sexual harassment, reach out to your boss or HR department right away.

They are required by law to listen to your claim and take action. Know your rights and get the help you deserve.

Did reading this article help you with taking action against your aggressors?

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