Q. What is considered sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwelcome or unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. It can also be some kind of sexual action that is aimed at someone because of the person’s sex. This action can be verbal, physical, or visual and subtle or obvious. It can also include conduct that is not sexual in nature but is gender-related. Sexual harassment includes the harassment of the same, or of the opposite, sex.
Q. What kinds of behaviors are considered to be sexual harassment?
The kind of actions that could be considered sexual harassment takes many forms. Actions like pinching, grabbing, patting, touching someone else can be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can also include comments like:
• Repeated requests for dates
• Embarrassing stories or “jokes”,
• Comments or questions about someone’s body or sexual activities
• Displays of pornographic materials
• Indecent exposure
• Assault or even rape.
Anyone can behave in ways that can be considered to be sexual harassment. This kind of behavior can happen with co-workers, supervisors, or non-employees. If a co-worker behaves in these kinds of actions then management needs to be told immediately so it can be stopped.
In order for behaviors to be looked upon as sexual harassment they have to be unwanted or unwelcome to someone. Also mild behaviors need to happen more than once and occur in a short time frame.
A one-time comment that suggests in mild terms something sexual is not enough to be considered sexual harassment. But if the comment is pointed and asking for sex then once may be enough to be considered sexual harassment. It depends upon the position the person is in that is making the comment.
Touching is generally not proper at work but may not be sexual harassment. If someone likes to touch people and touches everyone then this may not be sexual harassment. It may be more an invasion of someone’s space.
However, if the touching is to a part of the body that is normally considered a “private” area then this could be sexual harassment. Keep in mind even touching may take more than one time to rise to a level that a court will call sexual harassment.
Q. What is a “hostile work environment”?
A hostile environment is a feeling at work, after several actions of a sexual nature happen, that is unwanted. The formal definition is “Any unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”
What this means is that when people do unwanted actions at work that involves sex it can lead to an uncomfortable feeling at work. In order for this to be an illegal form of sexual harassment the actions need to be happening often enough to change your work conditions. Or the actions need to be serious enough to change your work condition.
Q. Is this law just to protect women?
No. The state law against discrimination applies to both genders. While statistically more women are subjected to sexual harassment than men both genders are subjected to sexual harassment and are protected.