An employee enduring workplace sexual harassment.

Signs You’ve Been the Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment

In any professional setting, the well-being of employees should be the top priority. However, sexual harassment in the workplace is a persistent issue that not only undermines this safe environment but also leaves a deep impact on the lives and careers of those who experience it. Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment is a crucial step towards addressing and eventually eradicating it from the workplace. In our latest blog post, we will walk you through clear signs of workplace sexual harassment and discuss what to do if you believe you are a victim.

Understanding Workplace Sexual Harassment

Before we can discuss the warning signs, it's important to understand what constitutes sexual harassment. Defining sexual harassment is not always straightforward, as it can range from unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors to other types of verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It creates an uncomfortable or hostile work environment and interferes with an individual's work performance. There are two main types:

  • Quid Pro Quo – This occurs when an employer or superior makes an employee's job contingent on sexual favors or when an employee is subjected to unwanted sexual advances or behavior in return for some employment benefit.
  • Hostile Work Environment – This type involves pervasive or severe behavior that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Signs You've Been the Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment is an important first step in addressing the issue. Here are some common red flags to be aware of:

  • Inappropriate Comments or Jokes – Sexually explicit discussions, jokes, or comments that make you feel uncomfortable in the workplace are a clear sign of harassment.
  • Unwanted Advances or Physical Contact – Inappropriate touching, hugging, or any physical contact without consent can constitute sexual harassment.
  • Display of Explicit Material – Sharing or displaying material of a sexual nature (e.g., images, videos, or messages) in the workplace is inappropriate and a form of harassment.
  • Retaliation for Refusal – If your rejection of sexual advances results in negative treatment, such as a demotion, loss of privileges, or change in job duties, this is a serious sign of harassment.
  • Gender-Based Insults or Slurs – Using derogatory language or terms to belittle or demean an individual based on their gender can be a form of sexual harassment.
  • Exclusion and Isolation – Being singled out and excluded from company activities or important meetings after refusing advances can indicate a hostile work environment.
  • Pattern of Behavior – When there is a consistent pattern of any of the above behaviors from the same individual(s) or within the company, it can indicate a larger problem.

Responding to Workplace Sexual Harassment

If you suspect you are being sexually harassed, it's important to take action. Here's what you can do.

Document the Incident(s)

Keep a record of the date, time, location, and details of each incident, as well as any witnesses present. This documentation will be crucial if further action is necessary.

Report the Harassment

Notify your supervisor, HR department, or a designated point of contact about the harassment. Many organizations have specific procedures for handling these situations, so it's important to follow them.

Seek Support

Reach out to trusted colleagues, friends, or family members to discuss your experience and seek emotional support.

Know Your Rights

Familiarize yourself with the company's sexual harassment policy and your legal rights. You may also want to consider seeking legal counsel to understand your options.

Remember, you have the right to work in an environment free from harassment, and seeking help is the first step towards making that a reality.

Do you have a workplace sexual harassment claim? At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, our legal team has more than 30 years of federal employment law experience. Give us a call at (202) 350-3881 or contact us online today.