sexual coercion

Sexual Coercion: How Does it Show Up in the Workplace?

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

You’ve likely heard of unwanted and inappropriate behaviors in the workplace — like sexual harassment — but there is another type of sexual misconduct that’s not often spoken of: sexual coercion. It’s critical to know what sexual coercion is to understand whether you’re a victim.

If you believe you’re experiencing sexual coercion, speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible for legal advice. 

What is sexual coercion?

Simply put, sexual coercion involves manipulating, or coercing, someone to engage in sexual behavior. 

Sexual coercion can be overt in some circumstances, but in others, it can be covert, meaning it can be difficult to identify when this type of behavior is occurring. For this reason, sexual coercion often goes on for some time and leads to worse sexual misconduct.

Because it can be confusing to know whether you’re the victim of sexual coercion, it’s important to know what to look out for.

What does sexual coercion look like in the workplace?

Sexual coercion can take on many forms, depending on your situation. Generally, coercion may be physical or verbal. 

Sexual coercion for sexual favors and requests can involve any of the following:

  • Harassment: Harassment can involve repeatedly asking you for sexual favors, especially if the perpetrator intends to wear you down until you say yes
  • Guilt: The perpetrator may try to make you feel guilty for denying them, like saying it is part of your duties as their employee
  • Blackmail: If the perpetrator threatens to release secrets or private information should you say no, this is blackmail and also a form of sexual coercion
  • Intimidation: Perpetrators may resort to intimidation, or words and actions that instill fear, to get their way
  • Power Imbalance: Particularly in the workplace, a perpetrator in a higher position may use their power for sexual coercion 

Usually, when sexual coercion takes place in the workplace, the perpetrator is trying to put pressure on you as the victim to comply with their demands. 

Pressure typically involves threats of consequences, such as:

  • Demotions
  • Cutting hours or salary
  • Negative performance evaluations
  • Termination

Sexual coercion can happen at any time in the workplace, but it also occurs in places outside of work, like after-work happy hours or company parties. Coercion is even more likely to take place when alcohol is involved, as perpetrators may feel more courage or empowerment to engage in such wrongful behavior.

Regardless of when or where you experience sexual coercion, there is no excuse, and it should not happen. 

Does sexual coercion count as sexual harassment?

In many situations, sexual coercion falls under sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment encompasses sexual behaviors that are inappropriate and unwelcome. This type of harassment, like coercion, can be physical or verbal in nature.

Additionally, depending on the conduct of the perpetrator attempting to sexually coerce you, it could result in sexual assault. Sexual assault is described as sexual contact or activity that occurs without consent from the victim.

Sexual harassment and assault are illegal. Your employer has a duty to protect you from harassment and assault in the workplace. 

What to Do if You Believe You’re Being Sexually Coerced in Your Workplace

Because sexual coercion can be so difficult to identify, it can be tricky to know for certain whether you are a victim. But regardless, you should trust your instincts. If you feel as though a coworker or supervisor is acting inappropriately toward you, you have the right to take action.

You can start by filing a complaint with your employer or the human resources department at your work. Your employer or HR professional can investigate and take corrective action, if applicable.

You may also have other viable options to pursue justice. An employment lawyer can help guide you in the right direction. 

Consult with an Employment Attorney Right Away

At NJ Employment Lawyers, LLC, we are passionate about helping victims of sexual coercion. Everyone deserves to feel safe in the workplace, and our attorneys want to help, even if your employer won’t.

Contact us to request a consultation with a skilled employment lawyer in New Jersey today.

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.