There are many actions that people participate in that could be construed as sexual harassment. What constitutes sexual harassment depends on the situation and the context in which information is shared.
For example, if Jen and Dave are dating, they might send each other romantic emails or suggestive memes. Are those necessarily sexual harassment? Not between them, but if another coworker is disturbed by the images or discussions, then their actions could be.
Some common types of sexual harassment in a workplace include:
- Sharing sexual or suggestive images or videos
- Sending suggestive notes, emails or letters
- Inappropriately touching others
- Making sexual gestures at others
Of course, there are other scenarios that could lead to accusations of sexual harassment, such as commenting on someone’s appearance or clothing in a suggestive manner.
What doesn’t constitute sexual harassment?
There may be times when you may come into contact with sexual images or videos that aren’t harassment, depending on your job. For example, it’s totally normal for medical professionals to see their patients in the nude. Certain imagery in medical offices may discuss sex or sexual behavior. These scenarios are a normal part of the role and aren’t harassment so long as they are within the normal standard of care.
Similarly, someone working in a gentleman’s club might be exposing themselves to clients or customers purposefully as a part of their role, but that in itself isn’t harassment. On the other hand, if a coworker were to touch the person inappropriately against their wishes, then it would likely be harassment.
There can be blurry lines, but you have rights if you’re uncomfortable at work
While there are always going to be exceptions to the general examples of sexual harassment and non-sexual harassment, you deserve to feel comfortable in your workplace. If you do not and you think that you are being exposed to content or experiences that are inappropriate, you have a right to look into your options. In some cases, you may be able to make a claim against your employer and get the support you need to stop harassment on the job.