5 Things to Understand About Sexual Harassment

sexual harassementSexual Harassment Overview

In prior blogs, we’ve have been discussing a common-sense definition of sexual harassment.  We have applied that definition to a case study.  What else might be helpful to know?

First, it is important to remember, that for behavior to be considered sexual harassment, the incident must have a sexual component.

Secondly, the behavior, in question, has nothing to do with work or getting work done.  It is not just a social behavior that people engage in at work to be pleasant, such as “Good morning, How are you?”  It is not an etiquette issue like opening a door for someone or helping by carrying something heavy.  It is some form of sexual behavior and/or it occurs because of a person’s sex.  When considering sexual harassment consider these 5 things:

1. Sexual in Nature

The sexual harassment behavior can range from something minor or light grey, such as an inappropriate comment, to something that is much more serious and dark greys such as sexual slurs or even sexual assaults.

2. Verbal

The most common form of harassment is verbal.  This includes jokes, wisecracks, comments and remarks that are offensive to one or more people.

3. NON-Verbal

Non-verbal sexual harassment can be equally serious.  This can include certain kinds of looks, or gestures such as leering, ogling.  It can also include certain kinds of photographs, cartoons or videos.

4. Physical 

Physical advances can be the most severe.  This includes touching, pinching, rubbing against, fondling, and sexual assault.   In fact, sexual assault takes many forms including any unwanted sexual contact or threats.  A sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, without that person’s consent.  It includes attempted rape or actual rape.

5. Sex-Based Behaviors

It can also be a behavior that is sex-based, meaning it occurs because of the person’s gender.  It is negative behavior that is directed to or impacts only one gender.

Men putting down women or women making negative remarks about men, a serious battle between the sexes on the job site.

Women in a traditional man’s job might hear, “This is man’s work, you should be home having babies.”  Or a man in a traditional woman’s job, like a daycare teacher, might hear, “I can’t believe you work here.”  When you observe this kind of battle between the sexes, the more traditional type of sexual harassment is usually occurring as well or is not far behind.

The sexual component can be verbal, non-verbal or physical.  It can also be a combination of verbal, non-verbal and physical behavior.  Defining sexual harassment is not simple.  There are a number of factors to consider.