Not only is discrimination in the workplace unethical, but it can also land employers in hot water from a legal perspective. That is why it is so important for both workers as well as employers to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and how it differs from other types of harassment. The Balance offers the following information so you can remain informed.
Sexual harassment is a broad category that can include many different behaviors. For example, jokes of a sexual nature can be considered sexual harassment, as can sharing stories about a person’s sex life to fellow co-workers. A person may also touch another employee inappropriately or make repeated requests for dates and romantic dalliances. Comments on sex and gender, leering, whistling, or performing lewd gestures are also considered harassment. Of course, these are just a few examples of possible workplace violations.
Conversely, harassment might be non-sexual in nature. Commenting on a person’s race or ethnicity negatively creates a hostile workplace and makes workers feel unwelcome. Harassment can also center on a person’s age, disability, marital status, religion, and many other areas. Even wearing a t-shirt with an offensive slogan or telling an off-color joke can be problematic. Additionally, workers other than the intended target of the harassment may take offense, even if the slight was not directed at them.
So, what can you do if you believe you are the victim of harassment? First and foremost, talk to your supervisor about what is occurring. It is possible that the issue can be handled by your human resource department, which is in place to deal with interpersonal conflicts. If this does not rectify the matter, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Make sure you have ample information about the incident, such as the date and time it occurred and who was involved. Also, keep track of the complaints made to your supervisors to show what actions were taken.