You just got a new job, and you’re already getting a bit of a strange vibe from your boss. Nothing has happened yet, but it’s put you on edge.
You also know that some supervisors will try to use their position of power to harass the workers under them. You want to know exactly what types of sexual harassment to watch out for so that you can go to Human Resources if anything ever crosses a line. To help, here are six examples.
1. Asking for sexual favors.
This is the cliche in sexual harassment cases. Your boss asks you for sexual favors or a relationship. You may be offered benefits in return, like a promotion, or feel threatened with a termination of your position if you say no.
2. Making sexual jokes.
Not all sexual harassment cases fit with the cliche, though, and so it’s critical to know that even “minor” things can be harassment. If others make sexual jokes at your expense, that can also qualify as harassment.
3. A hostile work environment.
They may not even make the jokes at your expense, but co-workers could make them around you often enough that it creates a hostile work environment. You don’t feel comfortable. This is often true if your gender is in the minority in the office — if you’re a woman, for instance, working with two other women and a dozen men.
4. Cyber attacks.
Not all sexual harassment happens in person. If your boss sends you inappropriate text messages or emails, that could also qualify. In the world of social media, which can break down some of the professional walls between co-workers, inappropriate contact is all the more common.
5. Unwanted contact.
Unwanted physical contact doesn’t have to be blatantly sexual. It could be as simple as standing too close to you and brushing against you intentionally. It could be just a hand on the shoulder or the back. If these things happen once, it could be an accident. The problem comes when it happens repeatedly, even though you say you want it to stop.
6. Attacking your sexual orientation.
Comments about your sexual orientation are off limits. This is true when co-workers know your sexual orientation and attack you because of it or when they don’t know but simply make guesses or jokes about it. These types of comments and jokes can create a hostile work environment and make you feel discriminated against based on your orientation.
As you can see, sexual harassment doesn’t always fit with assumptions and cliches, which is why it’s so important to know how it can happen in the workplace. Right now, your boss is just giving you a slightly strange vibe, but knowing what signs to watch out for helps you react if it turns into anything more.