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The difference between sex discrimination and sexual harassment

Although Texas has laws protecting males and females from both sex discrimination and sexual harassment, these two things are not the same. In the workplace, knowing the difference can help you see when you're being treated unfairly due to your gender or when you're being harassed due to your gender.

Sexual discrimination is when you are discriminated against due to being male or female. For females, this also includes being discriminated against just for being pregnant. The kinds of things that fall into this category of discrimination would be failing to get a promotion due to being pregnant, being fired due to being a man or having your benefits taken away due to your gender. Typically, this kind of discrimination is caused by supervisors, managers or other people in power in the workplace, but coworkers are also potentially able to discriminate as well.

Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is when you face unwelcome advances, physical touching of a sexual nature or receive requests for sexual favors. These things may also be discriminatory, but sexual harassment has the distinct difference of being harassing and sexual in nature.

Sexual harassment can be claimed by anyone who has been affected by sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes third parties who have witnessed harassment, especially if it has affected them emotionally. Of course, the sexual behavior does need to be unwelcome to classify as harassment, and it can affect men or women. Anyone in the workplace can be the cause of this harassment; it doesn't need to be your supervisor, manager or a coworker.

Source: Texas Workforce Commission, "Sex Discrimination" accessed Mar. 19, 2015

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