Sexual harassment in the workplace can make an employee feel uncomfortable and unsafe. The behaviors of a co-worker or employer may clearly have sexual intent, such as inappropriate touching or asking for sexual favors.
However, many employees are victims of subtle forms of sexual harassment. As a result, sexual harassment isn’t always reported, which can perpetuate harmful actions. Here’s how that can happen:
1. Digital media stalking
The digital age has introduced a new form of sexual harassment. An employee may have inappropriate comments on their social media posts, videos or images. Even if the comments don’t have sexual connotations, a co-worker messaging an employee on off-hours unnecessarily may be a subtle form of sexual harassment.
2. Calls at night
Much like digital media stalking, a co-worker may be calling or texting an employee late at night. The co-worker may not, for example, be calling for sexual favors, but the intent of the calls may be misleading. These calls and texts may be unwelcoming, persistent and disruptive to an employee’s life.
3. Inappropriate sexual jokes
A comment can make someone feel good about themselves, but there’s a fine line that can encroach on sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can sound like a comment, but it may be sexual in nature. For example, telling someone they “look nice today” can be complementary, which is a stark contrast between commenting on how someone must “have a hot date with the boss.” Many people may not immediately notice inappropriate sexual jokes and, as such, do not report harassers.
4. Persistent flirting
While some people see flirting as harmless and cute, persistent flirting can become creepy and inappropriate. When an employer rejects an employer’s sexual advances, the co-worker may even become aggravated and take extreme actions, such as stalking.
Understanding what to do if an employee is suffering from sexual harassment can make people feel safer and workplaces more accommodating. Victims of sexual harassment may need to reach out for legal help to learn what they can do next.