Sexual Harassment at Work Goes Beyond Inappropriate Touching

Many people translate sexual harassment to mean unwanted or inappropriate touching. They’re right some of the time, but there’s a lot more to sexual harassment than physical contact, especially when it comes to incidents that happen in the workplace. Workplace sexual harassment lawsuits can involve a wide range of verbal and emotional harassment, unwanted advances, and much more.

If you’ve been in a situation at work where you have experienced sexual harassment, no matter who it has come from, you don’t have to stand for it. You have recourse, and justice can be yours. Just remember that sexual harassment goes well beyond inappropriate touching, and it can encompass any of the following situations.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment 

Quid pro quo harassment occurs in the workplace when someone with a position of power uses their authority over another person to compel them to perform sexual acts or favors in exchange for certain benefits. This compulsion can be direct or implied, and the benefits the victim can be offered range from preferential treatment to promotions or pay increases. Quid pro quo harassment can also be used to compel sexual favors to avoid punishment (e.g., termination, poor performance reviews, etc.). 

Verbal Sexual Harassment

Words (and even the intent behind them) can be a form of sexual harassment that creates a hostile workplace. Verbal sexual harassment can involve many forms of unwelcome or inappropriate comments or communication that are of a sexual nature. Examples of these forms can include: 

  • Inappropriate comments 
  • Lewd jokes or humor 
  • Unwanted propositions or advances 
  • Insults, taunts, or slurs 
  • Catcalling or suggestive sounds 
  • Compliments that are unwanted 
  • Descriptions of things that are sexually graphic 
  • Using innuendos or double entendres 
  • Asking intrusive or explicit questions about a person’s intimate life 
  • Persistent and unwanted flirting 

Non-Verbal Sexual Harassment

Non-verbal sexual harassment involves unwelcome behaviors of a sexual nature that don’t rely on words that are spoken. These types of sexual harassment can include:

  • Inappropriate gestures (facial expressions, hand or body movements, etc.) 
  • Prolonged and intentional staring, or leering 
  • Displays or sharing of sexually explicit materials 
  • Following someone or invading their personal space (e.g., standing too close to them) 
  • Indecent exposure 
  • Giving inappropriate gifts 
  • Touching oneself inappropriately around another person 
  • Inappropriate notes, electronic messages, or other non-verbal communication 

How to Prevent, Recognize, and Report Sexual Harassment at Work 

Every workplace should have policies in place to prevent and address all forms of sexual harassment, but that doesn’t mean they will always prevent the situations from taking place. You are the first line of defense against sexual harassment. While it’s important to be familiar with your company’s policies and available reporting mechanisms, it’s also important to understand how to protect yourself.

  1. Trust yourself: If your instincts are telling you that something is not appropriate, listen to them. You know what makes you feel uncomfortable. 
  2. Set boundaries: Make it clear to everyone what makes you feel uncomfortable. Set your boundaries and enforce them. Let people know when they have crossed the line and politely ask them to stop. When you feel it is necessary, express that “No” is a complete sentence.
  3. Document repeated behaviors: If someone is frequently crossing your boundaries and makes you feel uncomfortable, document their actions. This can include saving communications, marking down dates and times, recording actions, and saving any other details you have on an incident. 
  4. Maintain a support system: Discussing the situation with family, friends, and colleagues can provide valuable perspectives and guidance. Reach out to people who can provide resources and support. 
  5. Report instances of harassment: Use your company’s reporting procedures to put incidents of sexual harassment on the record. This can involve submitting a formal complaint, speaking with human resources, or reporting the incident to a supervisor. If the behavior persists, continue to report it or escalate it to someone higher up in the organization. Reporting these instances allows for a documented trail of evidence to be made within your company.

You Have Rights—Consult with an Attorney 

No one should be forced to put up with sexual harassment in the workplace, whether it involves physical touching or any other form. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment at work, know that you can take action. At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, we stand up for victims of workplace sexual harassment, helping them take on the companies who have ignored, allowed, or were negligent in allowing sexual harassment to take place. We can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and experiences.

Reach out to us for a free case consultation today.