Egolf + Ferlic + Martinez + Harwood, Attorneys At Law

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Sexual harassment does not have to be physical

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2022 | Employment Law

If you feel like you’re being harassed at work, or that you’re being treated unfairly because of your gender, trust your gut. You may not even know exactly why the harassment is taking place or what signs you should look for, but you can tell that something is wrong.

In some cases, people overlook harassment because they assume that the law hasn’t been violated as long as nothing physical has occurred. Employees know that some thing like unwanted touching would be a violation of their rights, but they don’t know exactly where that line is. In a situation like this, it’s very important to remember that harassment absolutely does not have to be physical in order to be illegal.

Other types of common harassment

To understand how this works, remember that there are many other types of harassment. Simply teasing someone about their gender or their sexual habits could be harassment. Telling off-color jokes or insults could also count. All of this works together to create a hostile work environment.

In other cases, things haven’t progressed to a physical nature yet, but that doesn’t mean that a person in a position of power isn’t trying to guide them in that direction. For example, it is illegal for a boss to promise someone a promotion or a raise in exchange for sexual favors or a physical relationship. Even if that worker then turns their boss down and says they refuse to be in a physical relationship, the worker has still suffered from sexual harassment. The relationship doesn’t actually have to begin in order to cross that line.

In fact, there’s a specific term for this: Quid pro qo. This is when someone offers to make an exchange. In this case, it could be a relationship for a promotion. But it can happen in many ways, and it is definitely illegal.

What should you do?

Generally speaking, all people should feel comfortable and safe at work. No one should be treated unfairly, and no one should face discrimination or harassment because of their gender. When this happens, no matter what form it takes, it creates a significant problem. This is when employees need to make sure that they are well aware of all of their legal options.