Subtle Ways Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Manifest

You Have Rights As A Worker. I Will Help Protect Them.
Denis ZilberbergApril 19, 2023Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a significant problem across a range of industries in the United States. According to research, approximately 54% of women report experiencing some form or degree of work-related sexual harassment.

It’s important to understand that workplace sexual harassment can take various forms. Additionally, it may begin subtly, forcing a victim to question whether they’re truly experiencing harassment, or whether they’re overreacting to “harmless” behavior.

This type of self-doubt can prevent a victim from reporting harassment. Or, one perpetrating harassment could escalate their behavior, resulting in an increasingly uncomfortable situation.

It’s important for workers to be familiar with the subtle ways workplace sexual harassment can manifest. This is key to knowing when your rights as an employee are being violated. Examples include:

Excessive Attention

Harassment may begin with a coworker or superior paying more attention to an employee they find attractive than to other employees. They may excessively compliment their appearance, attempt to learn more about their personal life, or engage in flirtatious behavior.

It can be challenging to prove that a boss or coworker is paying you more attention than they pay others. However, you should feel comfortable stating the attention is not welcome and you would like them to adjust their behavior accordingly. You might have a better chance of demonstrating that you have a valid concern if you can reference specific instances in which the attention they paid you was excessive.

Excessive Social Invitations

This form of subtle harassment is similar to the one above. While it’s often entirely appropriate for a coworker or superior to ask a worker if they’d like to join them in a social activity, particularly if they’ve extended the invitation to other employees as well, a line may be crossed if someone persistently asks a coworker or subordinate out on a date after said worker has made it clear that they would prefer not to see them in that capacity.

Invading Personal Space

Someone who commits workplace sexual harassment by touching a coworker or subordinate may begin by simply standing too closely to them, following them around the workplace too closely and too often, etc. They may essentially be testing their limits to see what they can get away with. If a victim doesn’t put a stop to this behavior, it might escalate to unwanted physical contact.

Sexual Innuendos

Sexua innuendos can take many forms, such as double entendres or comments that vaguely reference sex and sexuality. Just as someone who plans to commit sexual harassment may start by invading a victim’s personal space to gauge how they react, they might also make subtle sexual comments to learn whether a coworker or employee will object to such comments.

These are just a few examples of less-than-overt manifestations of workplace sexual harassment. If you notice any of them, be aware you have the right to make it clear you don’t want the behavior to continue. If this continues to be a problem, and filing a complaint with HR doesn’t lead to a proper resolution, strongly consider meeting with a lawyer. A Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney at the Kaufman Law Firm will gladly discuss your potential legal options in these circumstances. For more information, contact us online or call us at 310-981-3404.

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