With the “#MeToo” movement, many more people are becoming aware of just how prevalent sexual harassment is. Understanding exactly what sexual harassment includes will be key for those who believe they have been harassed in the workplace and who want to seek help to learn about their options for how to handle it.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment includes a variety of different unwanted behaviours that are used to harass someone in the workplace. The definition is vague because the term encompasses so much. Non-physical sexual harassment can include suggestive remarks or gestures as well as requests or demands that may be sexual. Sexual harassment can also be physical, including unwanted touches, hugs, or other acts. Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment can speak with a lawyer like one at Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis to learn more about whether their own situation falls under sexual harassment and what they can do going forward.

Who Sexual Harassment Can Involve

When most people think about sexual harassment, they think about a male boss touching or talking to a female employee. While this is a form of sexual harassment, the reality is that the perpetrator and the victim can be anyone. Sexual harassment can occur between two coworkers on the same level, between an employee and a customer or between two people of the same sex. Perpetrators and victims can be male or female. In addition, the acts that can fall under sexual harassment don’t need to occur at work. They can happen at work-related events or when an employee is giving a coworker a ride home.

Quid Pro Quo or a Hostile Work Environment

Quid pro quo and hostile work environment are two types of workplace sexual harassment workplace. Quid pro quo, meaning “this for that,” includes any times where employment decisions are based on whether someone agrees or refuses unwelcome sexual advances. An employer requiring an employee to perform a sexual act in exchange for a raise would fall under the quid pro quo.

A hostile work environment is where the victim feels intimidated because of unwelcome conduct in their work environment. The unwelcome conduct can come from anyone they interact with and can include comments on their body, sexually suggestive pictures or text being posted, demeaning or inappropriate terms used during work, crude language and jokes, as well as other types of conduct.

Types of Inappropriate Conduct That Could be Sexual Harassment

Most people understand that any unwanted physical acts, including hugging, kissing or touching, will fall under sexual harassment. More subtle acts do fall under this as well. This can include anything that happens frequently or severely and makes the victim uncomfortable. Depending on how often they’re done, acts like commenting on a person’s appearance, talking about the attractiveness of an employee, or talking about sex with an employee can all be sexual harassment. It can also include sexually suggestive texts or emails, sharing nude photos in the workplace, or anything else that could make others in the workplace feel uncomfortable, distracted, or intimidated.

Sexual harassment is a term that encompasses many different types of unwanted behaviour. In the workplace, this can lead to many different issues for the victim, ranging from feeling uncomfortable at work to fearing for their safety if they don’t comply. If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment, speak with a lawyer today to learn about options you may have to end the harassment.

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