What is Sexual Harassment?

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Posted by Legal Team On April 27, 2023

Sexual harassment is all too common and has been largely ignored in the United States for many years. Since the advent of the Me Too movement, we are becoming increasingly aware of how intolerable behaviors that we have been forced to tolerate for years actually are. It is important to understand what sexual harassment is and how to prevent these behaviors.

Defining Terms Associated With Sexual Harassment

Understanding sexual harassment and knowing what behaviors should be categorized as sexual harassment is important if we are going to end it. Below is some of the terminology used to describe this despicable behavior. By having the right words, we can call out misconduct more easily.

Sexual harassment falls under three main categories of behavior that should never be permitted in the workplace.

Sexual Coercion

The term “quid pro quo” means that if a favor is performed or an advantage is issued, then the party receiving the advantage has to do something in return. “Quid pro quo harassment” means that attempts are made either straightforwardly or simply imply that particular work circumstances or even having a job are contingent upon sexual activity.

For instance, a boss is issuing a command for an employee to have sex with them or risk losing their job. Another example is offering a promotion or a raise in exchange for sexual favors. These are both examples of sexual coercion, which is classically what we consider sexual harassment, although it is the least common form.

Unwanted Sexual Attention

Another form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention. Unwanted sexual attention is seen more often than sexual coercion in the workplace. This conduct includes unwanted behaviors such as the following:

  • Touching
  • Hugging
  • Kissing
  • Stroking
  • Bodily contact
  • Pressure to date
  • Sexual behavior
  • Pressure to have sex

Not every romantic gesture or lewd sexual behavior at work is considered sexual harassment. For unwanted sexual attention to be deemed unlawful, the advances are not desirable or pleasant. The unwanted sexual attention must be severe or prevalent enough that the work environment is abusive, according to the United States Supreme Court.

Unwanted sexual attention may be a crime since it can lead to rape or sexual assault. For instance, an employer who presses his genitals against one of his employees or kisses them without permission expresses unwanted sexual attention. Forced sexual behavior is a crime as well as a civil offense.

Gender Harassment

Probably the most often misconduct in reference to sexual harassment is gender harassment. Gender harassment is conduct that belittles a person based on their gender. It does not include an element of sexual pressure or interest. It is used to degrade another person by using explicitly sexual terms or images, name-calling, and commenting on someone’s body or sexual proclivities.

Using crass terminology or foul language to attack a person’s gender is a form of gender harassment. But, more often seen in the workplace is sexist behavior. Examples of these behaviors are listed below:

  • Commenting on how one gender has no business in a certain field because it is not meant for their gender. For instance, women have no place in leadership or telling men what to do. Another example is telling men they shouldn’t teach young children because that’s “women’s work.”
  • Degrading jokes or remarks can be a form of gender harassment. Mocking or making fun of a workmate’s gender falls under the umbrella of gender harassment.
  • Pregnancy discrimination is also a way to discriminate against a person based on their gender.
  • Harassment aimed at LGBTQ+ employees through name-calling, questioning, or mocking is a form of gender harassment.
  • Disparaging, belittling, or degrading comments, jokes, or language is another common form of gender harassment.
  • Sharing gender-mocking or degrading material. This could be in the form of memes or graffiti.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

If you are being approached sexually and unwantedly or being put down or degraded because of your gender or sexual preferences, you are experiencing sexual harassment. You are protected from such violations by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Contacting a discrimination lawyer in California can see that your civil rights are protected since you do not have to allow sexual harassment to stand.

Until relatively recently, our attitudes as a society towards sexual harassment have been that much of it was nothing to get upset about. Grin and bear it was the status quo. If someone was only sexually harassed verbally, that was nothing to get too fussed about. When physical, sexual harassment happened, as long as it was not actual rape, society questioned if it was anything to be upset about.

The patriarchy told us these things, and naturally, we looked to them as the authority due to centuries of conditioning. The pendulum has finally begun to swing in a more inclusive direction, and we no longer believe what we know is invalid. The ways that sexually inappropriate behavior has been allowed for years are ending.

No More Silence

Given the social advancements we’re making towards gender equality and improved workplace behavior, silence can no longer be the norm. Speaking up about workplace sexual harassment creates a safer workplace for everyone involved. If you have had unwanted sexual attention or have been coerced regarding sexual acts, you do not have to internalize it or just put your head down and muscle through.

Contacting a discrimination lawyer is right for you and others who might be experiencing similar actions.

If you are the butt of gender-disparaging jokes or comments at work, if your sexuality is being questioned, exploited, or poked fun at, you do not have to take it. Your rights are protected. You are not the butt of a bully’s joke.

Contact The Armstrong Law Firm Today

A discrimination attorney with The Armstrong Law Firm is ready to protect your rights and navigate the complex and often challenging legal system by your side. Tolerating intolerable behavior is no longer the norm. No one should suffer sexual harassment.

To end this behavior, everyone must do their part. If you are the victim of such behavior, know that you are not alone, and there is no reason for you to look the other way or to internalize the misconduct of others.

The Armstrong Law Firm will not stand by and allow discrimination to happen. We are ready to aggressively fight for our clients. Our compassion for them fuels our tenacity. Contact us today for a free consultation, and we are ready to help.