What is sexual harassment? Is simply calling someone attractive or flirting enough to get you in trouble? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances. Sexual harassment also includes sexual favors, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Realistically, if you were flirting with someone who wanted you to do so, that would mean it was welcome and probably wouldn’t result in any problems for you. However, when those advances are unwanted, then this is unacceptable by law. If the conduct takes place as a condition of a person’s work, is used to make employment decisions affecting a person or interferes with a person’s work by creating a hostile environment, then that is sexual harassment.
Unwelcome behavior is a critical definition in sexual harassment cases. Even people who welcome activity may have really objected to it silently, which can make these cases complicated. Sexual harassment includes many things like sexual looks and gestures, unwanted calls, texts, letters or materials of a sexual nature and unwanted deliberate touching, which includes pinching, leaning over and cornering. Asking for or putting pressure on a person for sexual favors or attempting rape or sexual assault is also sexual harassment by law.
This list is not all inclusive, but other things that may be considered sexual harassment include neck massages, giving personal gifts, cat calls, kissing sounds, brushing up on a person, spreading rumors about a person’s sex life, staring at someone or looking at someone up and down.
It’s important to know that you don’t need to put up with unwanted advances. Your work life shouldn’t be affected by sexual harassment, and if it is, you may have a case for compensation.
Source: UN.org, “What is Sexual Harassment” Jan. 01, 2015