Harassment can include “sexual harassment.” This can be unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. However, harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex or gender. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. It doesn’t matter who is doing it, because it is the victim’s right to decide if they feel harassed.
Many people defend harassment by saying that it is harmless because it is just a form of flirting. Here are some basic guidelines to help differentiate between the two:
- is welcome attention
- goes both ways/is mutual
- makes you feel flattered or attractive
- you are in control
- makes you feel good about yourself
- is legal
- is unwelcome attention
- only goes one way/is not mutual
- makes you feel put-down or ugly
- you feel powerless
- makes you feel bad or dirty
- is a violation of a company’s or organization’s policy
Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention or conduct. The victim defines it, just like sexual assault. It is insidious and widespread, but it is NOT inevitable. However, because these behaviors are so normalized, we need proactive education and training to create safe work environments built on respect and accountability.
MESA offers customized and affordable Sexual Harassment training for your business or organization.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-443-0400
Customized workshops are available ranging from 1 to 8 hours. Contact email@example.com for details and pricing.