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What Kinds of Behavior Could be Considered Sexual Harassment?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes unwelcome advances and requests for sexual favors. Sex harassment also includes other types of verbal or physical harassment that are sexual in nature.

Sexual harassment falls under the act of harassment, which is illegal under the law. Harassment becomes illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it leads to negative consequences for the victim. Frequent or severe harassment creates a work environment that is hostile or offensive to the individual. It can also result in adverse employment decisions relating to the victim, such as employment termination or demotion.

The harasser can be the immediate supervisor of the victim, or anyone in the line of command, including a supervisor in another area. The harasser may also be a fellow employee, or a client, or a customer.

What is Sexual Harassment?

The unwelcome sexual advances and behaviors of a sexual nature are noted as work sexual harassment when such behaviors influence the conditions of employment of the individual. Specifically,

  • When submission to the sexual behaviors become an explicit or implicit term of employment, e.g. the victim will only get a raise if they submit to the request for sexual favors;
  • When the submission to the conduct becomes a basis for employment decisions;
  • When the sexual harassment has the purpose or the effect of interfering with the victim’s work performance;
  • When the sexual harassment has the purpose or the effect of creating a hostile, intimidating, or offensive environment.

What Kinds of Behavior Constitute Sexual Harassment?

The United Nations Women Watch further characterized sexual harassment to include certain types of behavior.

The following acts can be considered sexual harassment:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault
  • Pressure or insistence for sexual favors of any kind
  • Pressure or insistence for dates
  • Deliberate touching
  • Leaning over into personal space
  • Cornering in public areas, work stations, and other areas
  • Pinching
  • Forms of communication, such as letters or calls
  • Leading conversations into sexual topics
  • Asking or probing about sexual preferences, history or fantasies
  • Spreading rumors or fabricating lies about a person’s sex life
  • Neck or back massage
  • Touching the clothing, hair or body of an employee
  • Presenting personal gifts, especially of a sexual nature
  • Hugging or kissing
  • Patting or stroking
  • Sexually suggestive signals

The critical word or condition is “unwelcome” behavior. Sexual conduct is unwelcome as long as the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome.

Sexual harassment can also take the form of verbal assault or verbal practices. These include:

  • Using unwanted pet names such as babe or doll;
  • Whistling at someone;
  • Cat-calling;
  • Making sexual comments about a person’s body;
  • Making sexual comments or innuendos;
  • Telling sexual jokes or stories;
  • Making kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips;
  • Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy or looks.

Furthermore, direct interaction or contact is not a necessary qualifier for sexual harassment. As long as the behavior results in a hostile or offensive environment for the individual, then that behavior can be considered a type of sexual harassment. Such non-verbal behavior would include:

  • Hanging around a person
  • Touching or rubbing oneself sexually
  • Looking a person up and down
  • Staring at someone
  • Lewd facial expressions
  • Making sexual gestures
  • Winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips

Protect yourself or someone you know from sexual harassment by knowing your rights and options under the law. Contact Boston Sexual Harassment Lawyer, Davis and Davis, P.C. We have a thorough understanding of employment law in Boston.

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Have you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace?
Contact Davis & Davis, P.C. online or call (978) 228-2262 for a consultation.