While everyone knows sexual harassment in the workplace is grounds for termination, many do not know what exactly constitutes this behavior. Knowing the difference between sexual and non-sexual harassment is the best way to move forward with an HR complaint. Here’s how to tell which might be happening at your workplace.
When someone commits this offense, it creates a hostile work environment. This makes it difficult for employees to work at all, leading to various feelings and psychological responses. Aside from those that work with you, third parties like clients and vendors can also be found guilty of this crime.
Most people associate sexual harassment with inappropriate advances, but it’s so much more than that according to kellerlawoffices.com. Any action or words that have a sexual nature, making employees uncomfortable or interfering with their ability to work, counts. These include:
- Offensive comments about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation
- Sharing videos or images that are sexually inappropriate, like porn or gifs
- Asking questions that are sexual, like orientation or partner history
- Sending suggestive emails or notes
- Inappropriate touching of any kind
- Purposefully brushing up against another person in a sexual way
- Displaying lewd material at work
- Making comments about appearance, body parts, or clothing related to sex
- Lewd jokes and sexual anecdotes
- Staring or whistling suggestively
Anything outside of the sexual that is still offensive or inappropriate can be considered non-sexual harassment. This is also unlawful when it interferes with an employee’s ability to work or creates a hostile environment.
Just like sexual harassment, you should report these instances to HR immediately. If nothing is done about either form of harassment, employees are encouraged to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Examples of non-sexual harassment include:
- Negative comments directed towards a person’s religious beliefs
- Trying to change a fellow employee’s religious ideology
- Slang, nicknames, and phrases with racist connotation
- Clothing offensive to ethnic groups
- Derogatory comments about someone’s age
- Negative comments about ethnic traits or skin color
- Displaying racist imagery including drawings and posters
- Offensive conversation about ethnic, religious, and racial stereotypes
- Offensive gestures
- Sharing inappropriate emails, notes, videos, or images
- Making offensive comments about an employee’s physical or mental disability
Keep in mind that these are just overviews of non-sexual harassment. It can also include any type of behavior that intimidates, threatens, insults, or discriminates. Knowing the difference between what harassment is sexual and what is not will help you file your complaint.
Dealing With harassment
The first step in any harassment case is to contact your company’s HR department. If that claim goes nowhere, then one must be opened with the EEOC for action to take place. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for this, it’s against the law for them to do so.
At the same time, speak with a workplace sexual harassment attorney. They can work with the EEOC and add to the claim on your behalf, handling various aspects of the case so you don’t have too. Never let someone get away with harassment. Together, employees can stand strong and snuff out bigotry in all its forms.