Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees. This includes eliminating sexual harassment. Prevention is critical, and employers can offer sexual harassment training and provide effective complaint or grievance filing processes to discourage sexual harassment. But what actually counts as sexual harassment in the workplace? Generally, offhand comments, teasing, or isolated incidents are not legally considered sexual harassment. If the incidents create an offensive or hostile work environment, however, you can file a sexual harassment complaint.
Sexual Harassment Defined
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome requests for sexual favors, sexual advances, and other instances of physical and verbal sexual conduct of an offensive or hostile nature. Whether or not a specific action counts as sexual harassment depends on the victim’s perspective. If the person viewed the conduct as unwelcome, hostile, or intimidating, it legally counts as sexual harassment.
Verbal sexual harassment can take many forms. It includes making wolf whistles and cat calls, making sexual comments, insisting on taking a person on a date who has already refused, spreading gossip about a person’s sex life, and telling sexual jokes. While some teasing and jokes may pass as harmless, unwelcome verbal harassment can be offensive and create a hostile environment at your workplace.
Nonverbal behaviors can also count as sexual harassment. They include following or blocking someone’s way, making suggestive gestures or body movements, staring at someone, looking someone up and down, and making suggestive facial expressions or winking. Unwelcome nonverbal sexual gestures can also lead to intimidation and create an uncomfortable work environment, and you can file a grievance.
Physical harassment can include serious violations, such as physical advances, assault, rape, and unwanted sexual advances. It can also include touching a person’s body or clothing, standing close to a person without permission, and hugging or kissing a person without consent. Whether violent or subtle, physical harassment can be dangerous and threaten the safety and comfort of the victim.
Seek Legal Assistance with the Help of Our Firm
At The Prinz Law Firm, we are dedicated to upholding clients’ rights. If you have been sexually harassed at work, we can help you file a grievance and seek justice. Our passionate Chicago employment law attorneys can discuss your situation, determine your needs, and represent you every step of the way.
Contact our firm today for a free consultation.