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Subtle signs of sexual harassment in the workplace

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2023 | Workplace Harassment

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reported that 38% of women and 14% of men have reported sexual harassment at work. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that can take many forms, some of which are not always obvious. While overt actions like unwelcome physical contact are clear forms of harassment, other types can be more subtle and harder to recognize.

Understanding these subtle signs is important for maintaining a safe and respectful work environment. If you’re an employee, being aware of these less obvious forms of sexual harassment can help you identify them and take appropriate action.

Inappropriate comments or jokes

One common form of subtle sexual harassment is inappropriate comments or jokes. These can include sexual innuendos, suggestive remarks or comments about someone’s appearance that make you feel uncomfortable. Even if these comments are not directed at you specifically, they can create a hostile work environment.

Unwanted personal questions

Another subtle sign of sexual harassment is when a colleague or superior asks you personal questions about your romantic life, physical appearance or sexual preferences. These questions are intrusive and irrelevant to your work, and they can make you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

Prolonged or unnecessary physical contact

While overt physical advances are clearly inappropriate, subtler forms like prolonged handshakes, hugs or touches on the arm can also be forms of sexual harassment. These actions might seem harmless but can be unwelcome and uncomfortable.

Leering or suggestive gestures

Leering, or prolonged and suggestive staring, is another subtle but significant form of sexual harassment. Similarly, suggestive gestures, even if not overtly sexual, can create discomfort and a sense of intimidation.

Preferential treatment or promises in exchange for personal favors

Sometimes, sexual harassment can involve offers of preferential treatment, promotions or other work benefits in exchange for personal favors. This type of harassment might not be overtly sexual but is still inappropriate and manipulative.

Being aware of these subtle forms helps you understand when your boundaries are being crossed. It also empowers you to take appropriate action to maintain a safe and respectful work environment. Remember, all employees have the right to a workplace free from harassment. Recognizing these signs is the first step in ensuring that right.