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Sexual coercion in the workplace: What you should know

Often, sexual harassment is obvious — but it can also come in subtle forms. Sexual coercion is a common method applied by perpetrators who aim to trick or manipulate an employee into committing a sexual act. 

Employees are often reluctant to report sexual coercion in the workplace. However, sexual coercion could be unlawful and may even amount to a criminal act under certain circumstances. Everybody should know more about this subject.

Defining sexual coercion

Sexual coercion is often difficult to identify because it can take the form of both overt and more concealed behavior. However, it essentially amounts to pressurizing or intimidating a person until they are forced to have sexual contact against their will. 

Crucially, workplace sexual coercion can happen at the workplace or out of office hours. For example, harassment could happen at an office party or during a work-related trip. A supervisor or co-worker could be the perpetrator and the coercion could be a one-off occurrence or a regular pattern of behavior. 

Common examples of sexual coercion

All forms of sexual coercion typically involve exerting pressure. Often, this pressure comes in a verbal or emotional form. For example, a colleague may use constant flattery to exert pressure. Additionally, a harasser may try to make you feel guilty. For instance, they may imply that if you don’t have sex with them, they will be extremely hurt. Sexual coercion can vary in its severity, but it is a potentially unlawful type of behavior.  

It is vital that employees are aware of all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, so they can stay protected. Moreover, if employees have been victims of sexual harassment, there are legal options available to them.   

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