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The fine line between workplace banter and sexual harassment

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2023 | Sexual Harassment

Talking to coworkers can be a great way to relieve stress at work. However, it’s important to understand that these conversations can quickly turn inappropriate. What’s considered harmless by one person may be seen as sexual harassment by another. As such, employees must mind what they talk about to avoid crossing into inappropriate territory.

Acceptable banter among coworkers

Many workplaces encourage employees to develop positive relationships with their coworkers. This often involves engaging in friendly and easygoing conversations at work. Acceptable workplace communication includes:

  • Talking about harmless topics, such as sports or hobbies
  • Complimenting each other on work-related achievements
  • Discussing personal matters in a respectful way
  • Asking about each other’s weekends or upcoming plans

Keeping friendly and lighthearted conversations with colleagues is generally a good idea.

Crossing the line to harassment

Conversations at work have a big impact on workplace culture and morale. So, when they cross the line into sexual harassment, it can create a hostile and offensive work environment for everyone. In California, sexual harassment in the workplace can have serious consequences. These are five examples of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  1. Talking about explicit or suggestive topics
  2. Asking personal questions about someone’s sex life or romantic relationships
  3. Telling sexually explicit jokes or stories
  4. Acting out sexual gestures
  5. Making unwanted physical contact, like touching someone’s arm or back

These are never welcome in the workplace as they make people feel unsafe and vulnerable.

Sexual harassment can have legal consequences for employers and employees in every state. As such, it’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent and address inappropriate conduct at work. Management must act quickly to address any reported incidents. Similarly, they must also promote a culture of respect that does not tolerate sexual harassment or any hostile or abusive behavior.