How to Identify Subtle Sexual Harassment
There are two types of sexual harassment according to the law: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile workplace sexual harassment. A supervisor requiring a subordinate to perform sexual favors in order to keep his or her job, for example, is quid pro quo sexual harassment. An employee who shares sexually explicit images with coworkers or consistently asks them inappropriate questions could be contributing to a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment is not always obvious, and it may sometimes be difficult to know what constitutes harassment.
Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment can include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. In order to be considered sexual harassment by law, these behaviors generally must be severe and pervasive. The legal definition of what specific behaviors constitute sexual harassment is vague. However, workers should know that inappropriate behavior does not have to be grandiose in order to qualify as sexual harassment. Subtle signs of sexual harassment may include:
- Standing uncomfortably close to coworkers or “accidentally” brushing up against them;
- Staring at a coworker’s body in a way which makes them uncomfortable;
- Making comments about a coworker’s body;
- Asking inappropriate questions regarding a coworker’s sex life;
- Showing or sending coworkers sexual images such as pornography;
- Displaying sexual images in the workplace; and
- Attempting to discuss sexually-charged topics with coworkers.
In order to be considered sexual harassment, this behavior generally must be ongoing and pervasive. So, an employee who makes an inappropriate joke one time may be in violation of his or her employer’s internal rules, yet, is probably not guilty of sexual harassment according to the law.
Feelings of Powerlessness
One of the hallmarks of sexual harassment is that the victim does not believe they have the power to stop the harassment. Victims of sexual harassment may fear being fired or ostracized at work for speaking up about the inappropriate behavior. Others do not report harassment because they have seen other employees be punished for speaking out about issues within the workplace. Fortunately, there are legal protections in place for victims of sexual harassment which prevent employers from retaliating against an employee who complains of harassment.
If you have experienced any the behaviors listed above, you may have been the victim of sexual harassment. For a confidential consultation of your case, contact the experienced Illinois sexual harassment lawyers at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC today. Call 630-665-7300 to schedule an appointment.