Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major problem in almost every industry, but people often question whether or not an action or an event is really harassment. How do you know, for example, if someone’s comment is harassment instead of mere “poor taste.”
Here are some of the things that the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has to say about the issue:
1. Does it matter if the victim is male or female?
It does not. It doesn’t matter if the victim and the harasser are different genders. Sexual harassment can come from anyone, of any gender, and be directed toward anyone.
2. Does the harasser have to be your boss?
No. While the image of the lecherous boss chasing after every employee in a skirt is familiar to many, the reality is that sexual harassment doesn’t have to come from a supervisor or owner. It can also come from your co-workers and customers.
3. Does it matter if you didn’t get fired?
Maybe you stood up to your harasser and the abuse stopped. There were no obvious reprisals against you. However, that doesn’t mean that the abuse you suffered is acceptable. Harassment is still harassment — even if it doesn’t cost you your job.
4. Does it matter if you weren’t physically touched?
Absolutely not. You can be the victim of sexual harassment through words, images, gestures and more. You can even be the victim of sexual harassment if you witness another worker being victimized.
If you’ve been subjected to unwanted sexual conduct by someone in your workplace and your work performance is affected or you feel that the environment is hostile, it may be time to learn more about your legal options.