For many people, reporting unwanted sexual behavior is challenging, and this is especially true when it occurs in the workplace. However, letting someone know that it is happening may prevent someone else from being a victim, and the harasser can face just punishment.
To help prevent someone from reporting something unnecessarily, it helps to understand what the law deems as sexual harassment.
What constitutes sexual harassment
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment does not refer only to behaviors or words of a sexual nature. It may be offensive remarks about someone’s gender.
More commonly, however, it does allude to sex. Examples of sexual harassment include:
- Offer of a promotion in exchange for sex
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Demands for sexual favors
- Sexual physical or verbal harassment that results in an offensive or hostile work environment
Sexual harassment does not include isolated, nonserious incidents, impromptu comments or simple teasing. A victim or sexual harassment can be male or female, and the harasser may be of a different or same sex.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania reports that around 20% of men and more than 80% of women have been victims of sexual harassment while on the job. There are numerous ways to report sexual harassment. If the harasser is a co-worker or client, the victim should immediately report it to a supervisor or human resource manager. If the harasser is a supervisor or boss, or if the company does not take immediate action to investigate the claim, there are other avenues to take.
For federal employees, victims can file a complaint with the EEOC. For state or local employees, complaints can go to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. There are also numerous victim services providers in the community that a victim can contact for advice and support.