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Sexual harassment: It doesn’t discriminate by title

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | EMPLOYMENT LAW (EMPLOYEE) - Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue in workplaces. Traditionally, people often think of it as a supervisor abusing their power over a subordinate. However, sexual harassment can occur in any direction, and subordinates can indeed harass superiors.

This can be a surprising concept for many. After all, a power imbalance seems to be a key factor in the very nature of this offensive conduct. But sexual harassment is about creating a hostile work environment, and that can happen regardless of someone’s job title.

Understanding the power dynamics

While there may be a power imbalance in terms of job titles or responsibilities, sexual harassment isn’t solely about authority. It’s about creating an uncomfortable or threatening environment through unwelcome sexual advances, requests or comments.

A subordinate can still hold power in certain situations. For instance, a lower-level employee with access to critical information or a unique skill set could leverage that to make unwanted advances toward a superior.

Here are some specific examples:

  • Inappropriate comments or jokes: A subordinate making suggestive remarks or sexual innuendos directed at a superior can be considered harassment.
  • Unwanted physical contact: Touching, groping or any other form of physical contact a superior finds offensive can be sexual harassment, regardless of the perpetrator’s position.
  • Sexual propositions: A subordinate pressuring a superior for a date or sexual relationship can be considered harassment, especially if there are threats or implications attached to refusing.
  • Posting sexual content online: Sharing inappropriate pictures or comments about a superior online can create a hostile work environment.

It’s important to remember that these are just a few examples, and sexual harassment can take many forms. The key factor is whether the behavior makes the superior feel uncomfortable, intimidated or threatened.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue that can affect anyone, regardless of their position within a company. Supervisors who feel sexually harassed by a subordinate can benefit from personal legal guidance as they pursue justice for their unique situation.