Employees have a right to a safe work environment. One way employees may feel unsafe at work is if they experience sexual harassment.
Victims may not immediately notice they’re being sexually harassed — or they may have doubts, especially if their harassers are manipulative. Here’s what you should look for if you think you’re the victim of sexual misconduct in the workplace:
1. Sexualized jokes
Many people make jokes to pass the time, and some people are exceptionally good at it, but others may make inappropriate jokes that make others uncomfortable. A joke that makes a sexual suggestion or statement could be a form of harassment.
2. Inappropriate comments
People often enjoy hearing comments on their appearances. But, these kinds of comments can quickly become inappropriate if they are of a sexual nature. Comments about how your shirt hugs and accentuates your chest, for example, are not acceptable.
3. Social media stalking
The internet has made sexual harassment much easier. Harassers may take advantage of people’s social media posts and use them to make inappropriate comments or even stalk people’s locations.
4. Late-night texts
Employers, employees and coworkers often share phone numbers so that communication in the workplace is easier. Most phone calls and texts should be made around and during work hours. However, it might be inappropriate to start texting someone late at night, especially about personal topics. That could even be some kind of “grooming” leading up to more overt harassment later.
5. Acts of retaliation
Retaliation could be the result of some kind of sexual harassment. For example, an employer may have been rejected by an employee and is taking their emotions out by deducting their pay. Or, a relationship between an employer and employee may have turned sour and the employee is now let go.
Another kind of retaliation can occur when someone reports sexual harassment in the workplace. An employer may find this discouraging and fear that this would hurt the business’s name. As a result, instead of punishing the harasser, they’ll target the victim as a way to dismiss and hide the issue.
Victims of sexual harassment should act fast to make a report. However, understanding your legal rights could help you enforce a safe work environment or — at least — understand your options moving forward.