You believe you may have encountered sexual harassment at your job. Whether it’s same sex harassment in the workplace or an intimidating work environment, it may get worse if you don’t do something about it now.
A recent survey found that over 80 percent of women and over 40 percent of men have been assaulted or sexually harassed at some point. The workplace is one of the most likely places for someone to encounter sexual harassment.
The first step is learning more about whether the behavior you’ve encountered qualifies as illegal. Then, you can take steps to resolve the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sexual harassment is stressful, but there are laws in place to protect you. We’ll define what sexual harassment is (including examples) and then go over what you should do about it.
Defining Sexually Inappropriate Behavior
In the workplace, sexual harassment may involve a tangible loss. This means that in failing to comply with sexual requests or demands, you paid a consequence. Here are some examples of tangible losses:
- A decrease in pay
- Loss of benefits
- Getting fired
But the inappropriate behavior doesn’t have to result in a tangible loss to qualify as harassment. Any sexual harassment is illegal in Arizona and can cause a toxic work environment or emotional distress. You may have experienced a co-worker or manager violating your rights or making sexual comments to you.
Or perhaps you’re experiencing unwanted advances, meaning you’ve been inappropriately propositioned in a sexual way. Maybe you even witnessed employees sexually harassing a customer. In any of these scenarios, telling your supervisor (and potentially seeking legal counsel) is advisable.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment can be subtle or hard to notice, so it’s important to know what to watch for. Here are some examples of someone at your work sexually harassing you:
- Paying you excessive attention or following you around at work
- Brushing up against you “accidentally on purpose”
- Looking your body up and down or inappropriate staring
- Standing in your way or physically blocking you
- Asking for sexual activity or repeatedly asking for dates
- Insulting your sexual orientation or gender identity
- Sending explicit or suggestive texts, emails, or photos
- Displaying sexual images or items around the workplace
- Telling inappropriate jokes or talking about sexual experiences
- Making sexual facial expressions, remarks, or gestures
- Questioning your sexual orientation
If a person you work with is displaying any type of behavior that makes you uncomfortable, the sooner you deal with it, the better. These are just a few of the behaviors that could qualify as harassment at your job.
Although we focused mostly on harassment in a professional environment in this article, you may also wish to contact a legal professional about other types of harassment. Or if you have any questions about the statute of limitations on harassment in the workplace.
How to Handle Sexual Harassment
The examples we provided above should help give a better understanding of whether you’ve been sexually harassed at work or not. Whether the harasser is a colleague, contractor, or manager, their behavior is illegal. If the way their actions are causing you emotional distress or a tangible loss, you should get them to stop as soon as you can. So, what should you do if you’ve encountered sexual harassment in the workplace?
- Keep track of everything that happened by writing it down, including locations, times, and dates, and witness statements.
- Tell your supervisor, boss, or human resources about the harassment as soon as possible.
- Look over your personnel file, so you know what’s being written or said about you (if anything).
- Report the complaint as soon as you can, since there might be a time limit for bringing legal action against the harasser.
In addition to reporting the event(s) to your supervisor or HR, you might find it helpful to ask an attorney about your situation. You may also wish to get legal advice on sexual harassment outside the workplace.
Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Assault
Sexual harassment essentially means unwanted sexual advances, including crude remarks or unwelcome flirting. It involves one party preying on another by being suggestive or inappropriate.
Sexual assault, on the other hand, is physically acting upon these threats. Behaviors like groping someone, rubbing against someone, as well as rape, all qualify as sexual assault. It’s worth noting that each workplace has its own standards for harassment or assault.
People often consider harassment to be solely sexual, but other types of harassment exist. Gender-related harassment may overlap with sexual harassment, though it doesn’t always. So, how can you know if you’ve experienced this type of harassment? Gender related harassment behaviors include:
- Generalized slurs about your gender.
- Obscene jokes or humor about any gender.
- Gender-derogatory remarks or nicknames.
- Insulting or demeaning conduct that shows a negative attitude about your gender.
- Displaying or transmitting material that degrades your gender.
- Gender-based comments that are patronizing or belittling.
- Offensive, gender-related remarks.
These are a few examples of gender-related harassment, though other behaviors may also qualify. The best way to find out whether you’ve been subjected to gender-related harassment is to do more research and consult a legal professional.
Harassment can be an embarrassing topic, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. The fact of the matter is that sexual harassment is always illegal and there are laws in place that are on your side. An experienced attorney can walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
Assistance for Employees in Arizona
The first thing you must do if you’ve encountered harassment at work is notify your HR department or boss. Then you can file a charge if your complaint doesn’t bring you a satisfactory resolution.
If you’re ready to educate yourself further or take action, contact our employment law team today to setup a consultation.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.