uncomfortable woman in the workplace

How to Recognize Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

There are several misconceptions surrounding sexual harassment. For instance, many believe that sexual harassment only ever happens to certain people, like women or those of a younger age. However, this is not the case at all. People of any age, gender, or race can be victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

It is critical to understand what sexual harassment is and to know the warning signs. If you think you’re the target of sexual harassment, do not hesitate to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable employment attorney right away.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment encompasses a variety of inappropriate and unwelcome behaviors. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you might feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even unsafe.

In the workplace, there are two types of sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. 

Hostile work environment harassment refers to any unwanted sexual behavior. In such cases, the harasser’s sexual words and actions create an unwelcoming or intimidating workplace for the victim. 

Quid pro quo means “in exchange for” or “this for that.” In terms of sexual harassment, quid pro quo harassment means an employer or supervisor has asked for something sexual in exchange for a work benefit, such as a job, promotion, or raise.

Regardless of the exact details of your situation, sexual harassment can make going to work unpleasant and even unbearable. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment, it’s best to discuss your case with a skilled employment lawyer.

Common Signs Indicating Sexual Harassment

You’ve likely heard of sexual harassment and what it entails; however, it can sometimes be difficult to recognize the signs in the moment. Sexual harassment can manifest itself in many ways, so knowing what to look for is important. 

Sexual harassment can be verbal. Some of the verbal signs include:

  • Making sexual jokes 
  • Asking for sexual favors
  • Cat-calling
  • Making inappropriate comments about your appearance
  • Making unwelcome sexual advances
  • Discussing sexual stories or fantasies

It is common for victims of sexual harassment to experience improper physical contact. This involves both touching in inappropriate places and touching in other places, like the hair or face, that could just be uncomfortable. Hugs and seemingly harmless contact can also be a form of harassment, especially when unwelcome. 

Other signs of sexual harassment are not verbal or physical but could just as equally be wrong, including:

  • Sending a victim sexual emails or text messages
  • Making faces across the room, including winking and blowing kisses
  • Spreading false, and often sexual, rumors about the victim to others in the workplace

If you feel you might be the victim of sexual harassment, trust yourself. In many situations where sexual harassment occurs, there is no way to justify the harasser’s actions. Consider taking action when you feel a person is acting inappropriately toward you.

What should I do if I think I’m experiencing sexual harassment?

If you believe you’re the victim of sexual harassment, begin gathering evidence as soon as possible. For example, if your harasser sends you texts or emails, you may be tempted to delete them, but don’t. The more evidence and documentation you have to prove the harassment, the better.

Depending on your employer’s policies, you may need to report the harassment to your company’s human resources department. They can then conduct an internal investigation.

However, it is imperative to speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Even if your employer conducts an internal investigation, you may need help taking further action. An attorney can provide proper advice and guidance. 

Consult with an Attorney as Soon as Possible

NJ Employment Lawyers is dedicated to helping clients experiencing sexual harassment at work. We want to help you get the justice you deserve.

Our firm proudly serves clients in the state of New Jersey. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with a qualified employment law attorney.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.