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How do I know if I've been the victim of workplace harassment?

Imagine a scenario where you are at the office working late one night and your boss enters your office and closes the door behind him. He then proceeds to make sexual references and inappropriately touches your leg. It's pretty clear that you have just been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Imagine another scenario where a supervisor who is known to be the office clown sends out a mass email to the entire office, men and women, which contains an inappropriate joke with sexual innuendos. In this scenario, it may be a little less clear if you've been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms and it is not often blatant and clear. So, how do you if you have been the victim of workplace harassment?

Many instances of harassment in the workplace go unreported because people are uncertain whether what occurred was actually harassment, or they are too frightened to report it. A recent study showed that over 75 percent of cases that were reported resulted in the employee experiencing some form of retaliation for making such a report. It's important to be aware of what constitutes harassment and take action if you have been a victim.

One common type of sexual harassment in the workplace takes the form of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." If your boss proposes such a quid pro quo agreement in order to help you out professionally, this may constitute sexual harassment. A second type of harassment is one where your boss engages in the more blatant and outwardly unprofessional and inappropriate behavior. Touching or groping, telling inappropriate jokes, making suggestive comments about your appearance, displaying sexually explicit pictures or openly discussing sexual exploits, are just a few examples.

If any of these scenarios occurs or you've had an experience that falls somewhere in between, but doesn't feel quite right, it likely falls within the category of illegal workplace sexual harassment. It is important to report this type of behavior and take action to prevent it from happening again.

Source: Metro.us, What constitutes workplace harassment?, Pat King, March 15, 2018

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