Five Facts About Workplace Sexual Harassment

posted by Charles Joseph  |  Oct 17, 2019 12:32 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Workplace sexual harassment affects millions of people each year. According to a national study, nearly 40% of women and over 10% of men report experiencing sexual harassment at work. 

These five facts about workplace sexual harassment help employees protect their rights.

1. There Are Many Types Of Workplace Sexual Harassment 

Laws protecting employees from sexual harassment at work cover multiple forms of sexual harassment. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature all qualify as sexual harassment. 

  • Unwanted sexual contact: Unwelcome physical contact can qualify as sexual harassment. If a coworker, supervisor, or client touches, hugs, or brushes up against you, this can be sexual harassment.

  • Hostile work environment: Offensive comments of a sexual nature, sexually explicit communications, and graphic images can all create a hostile work environment under sexual harassment laws.

  • Quid pro quoquid pro quo exists if a person in a position of power demands sexual favors for favorable treatment. For example, if a boss or supervisor pressures a job applicant or employee to go on a date, that qualifies as quid pro quo sexual harassment.

2. Your Boss Isn't The Only One Who Can Sexually Harass You

Only a boss or supervisor can commit quid pro quo sexual harassment, because only a person who can grant or withhold a job offer, promotion, or other work benefit meets the definition.

However, a sexual harasser can also be a supervisor in another area without direct power over the employee, a co-worker, or even a client or customer. Employers have a responsibility to create a workplace free from sexual harassment. 

3. Sexual Harassment Can Be A Crime

Workplace sexual harassment violates federal, state, and local laws. It can also be a criminal offense. The following examples of sexual harassment violate criminal statutes. 

  • Forcible Touching: If a person intentionally, and for no legitimate reason, touches another person's intimate parts to degrate that person, they are guilty of a crime.

  • Criminal Sexual Act: Engaging in any form of sexual conduct with a person without their consent qualifies as a criminal sexual act. This can be a felony.  

  • Sexual Abuse: Any attack that subjects the victim to sexual contact without their consent can qualify as sexual abuse. This can be a felony.

4. Sexual Harassment Doesn't Have To Be Sexual

In spite of the name, sexual harassment doesn't have to be sexual in nature. At the federal level, sexual harassment laws also cover offensive remarks about a person's sex.

As a result, harassing a female employee by making offensive comments about women can qualify as sexual harassment. 

5. Men Can Be Victims And Women Can Be Harassers

Another common misconception about sexual harassment assumes that only men can harass women. In fact, the harasser can be either a man or a woman, and the victim can also be a man or a woman.

Sexual harassment laws protect people from harassers of the same gender as well.

What can you do about sexual harassment at work? If you've faced workplace sexual harassment, an employment lawyer can help protect your rights. Contact an employment lawyer in your local area to ask about a free consultation.

You can also read more about your sexual harassment rights:

Sexual harassment protections and your rights

Advice for victims of workplace sexual harassment

The process of filing an EEOC complaint


What is Sexual Harassment?

How Should You Handle Sexual Harassment At Work?

Can Sexual Harassment Be Verbal?

Charles Joseph has over two decades of experience in employment law and sexual harassment. He is the founder of Working Now and Then and the founding partner of Joseph and Kirschenbaum, a firm that has recovered over $120 million for clients.

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