Same-sex sexual harassment is an often overlooked issue

Social awareness of sexual harassment and discrimination at work has been on the rise in the last few decades. Currently, the vast majority of large employers in the United States have specific discrimination and sexual harassment policies in place. The purpose of these policies is to protect employees from hostile work environments, as well as to protect employees from potential lawsuits.

However, many cases of sexual harassment still go unreported. There are many reasons that people may not feel comfortable coming forward. One may be because the harassment is coming from people of the same gender as the victim.

Same-sex sexual harassment can cause an unhealthy work environment

The typical scenario that people imagine in a workplace sexual harassment case probably involves a male figure of authority abusing that position to mistreat female workers. Other people might imagine male co-workers making crude jokes that offend female co-workers. While these situations certainly do happen, they are far from the only scenarios in which sexual harassment occurs in the workplace.

Male workers can face harassment from female managers or co-workers. It is also possible for both female and male workers to experience sexual harassment at the hands of people who are the same gender. This kind of sexual harassment is particularly insidious, because it doesn't look like the commonly accepted standard for harassment.

Co-workers could make crude jokes about each other's appearance, genitalia or sexuality. Staff could use aggressive, violent or charged language that makes one person uncomfortable. Co-workers may even single out another employee of the same gender because of his or her perceived sexual behaviors or lack thereof.

Same-sex sexual harassment can leave victims feeling insecure and unsafe at work. They may also feel like they don't have grounds to make a formal complaint. That simply isn't the case. Harassment from anyone, of any gender, should not happen in the workplace.

Different sexualities are not required for same-sex sexual harassment

There is a common assumption that same-sex sexual harassment will likely include somebody of a differing sexual orientation. While this is possible, it is certainly not the only situation in which same-sex sexual harassment occurs.

Yes, a situation where a homosexual or heterosexual supervisor mocks or solicits sexual favors from a co-worker of the same sex could be a form of sexual harassment. However, there does not need to be an overt sexual interest in the other party for harassment to occur.

All that really needs to happen is inappropriate behaviors that make one person feel uncomfortable because of his or her gender, sex or orientation. Employers may not take claims of same-sex sexual harassment seriously. If your employer refuses to act, you may need to take additional legal action to protect yourself from a hostile work environment.

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