Sexual harassment may take many different forms, and you may not even realize at first that it is happening to you. In the work place, especially, sexual harassment is quite serious, and should never be taken lightly. It may seem like a simple problem to fix, perhaps by telling the person making advances that you are just not interested. Sadly, that often doesn’t work and may even ultimately backfire on you. This is not a reason to avoid reporting it, though. Sexual harassment has many potential subsequent problems, that may involve your career, your family and other relationships, and you should be extremely cautious when you suspect it is happening and you should always try to stop it immediately. Here are five signs that you are being sexually harassed in your workplace:
- If a co-worker continually addresses you in a flirty or suggestive manner, touches you inappropriately or seems to be staring for no reason, this may be a sign of sexual harassment. The co-worker may repeatedly approach your desk or work area, and seem to seek out reasons to be near you or work with you closely. Be sure that you are clear about boundaries, especially when it comes to personal space. If the behavior continues, contact a superior or advisor.
- A supervisor is repeatedly asking you to stay late, or work alone on “special projects.” This can often be an indicator that they want to get time with you alone, perhaps to make “their move.”
- A supervisor asks you to lunch or dinner alone, without the company of any other coworkers or spouses. This is inappropriate when it comes to workers of different levels, and you should always refuse this offer, no matter how enticing it may seem. If, at any time, you are threatened with losing your job or losing job perks and privileges, then this should be immediately reported to that person’s superior.
- A supervisor asks you to come into their office alone, and shuts the door. Never spend time alone behind closed doors with a superior, it will almost always appear inappropriate. This refusal should be made with caution, and if you are threatened with losing your job because you refuse, then you should immediate report this behavior.
- You are asked, at any time, for physical or emotional contact in exchange for any advancement or other business opportunities. This is the highest degree of sexual harassment, especially in the event that you are denied any advancement or other opportunity because of a refusal to engage in sexual or physical encounters with a superior.
Any time that you suspect that you are being sexually harassed, you should document the situation clearly (include dates, times and descriptions), and report it to your superiors. If it is your superior that is sexually harassing you, then you should report it to that person’s boss or to your company’s personnel department. If you do not get a satisfactory response quickly, then you have a right to contact an attorney to pursue potential legal action to remedy the situation. Sexual harassment in the workplace should never be tolerated!