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Common signs of sexual harassment in the workplace

When you leave home for work, you look forward to a safe and secure workplace where your rights are safeguarded. Unfortunately, there are times when this is not the case. Sexual harassment in the workplace does exist, and anyone (male or female) employee can be a victim.

There is no one-size-fits-all definition for sexual harassment. However, it can be generally termed as any unwelcome behavior sexual behavior that has a negative effect on your personality and ability to perform your job. While sexual harassment can take multiple forms, it is usually an abuse of power that involves one party trying to directly or indirectly threaten the other party’s (usually a subordinate) working conditions, job security or opportunities for promotion.

Here are some of the common signs of sexual harassment in the workplace that you might want to look out for.

Sexually-charged attention or physical contact

This is, perhaps, one of the most obvious signs of sexual harassment. This can manifest in multiple ways such as a co-worker touching your breasts, butt or crotch or sexual comments. Other less explicit ways this can manifest include:

  • A co-worker or supervisor staring at your body in a manner that makes you uncomfortable
  • Standing too close or speaking in a suggestive manner
  • Making sexualized comments about your body
  • Persistently discussing their sexual experiences and demanding the same from you

Physical acts of unwelcome sexual contact may include hugging, kissing, patting groping or inappropriate touch.

Quid pro quo

Sometimes, sexual harassment can take the form of one party, usually in the position of power, demanding sexual favors in return for something else like a job promotion. This is known as quid pro quo, “something in return for something.” In the context of a workplace, your employer or supervisor may approach you for a sexual favor in return for a pay rise, a promotion or other work-related favors.

To most people, sexual harassment tends to be a grey area. What starts off as a harmless behavior may fast escalate into something uncomfortable and dangerous. If you feel you are being sexually harassed at work, it is important that you take immediate steps to safeguard your rights.

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