Overview of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

Author : Joseph Franks | Published On : 22 Sep 2021

Sexual Harassment at the workplace in not uncommon, though it occurs in various forms, so it is not always obvious. Any kind of sexual relationship between two individuals at work cannot be called harassment if it is based upon mutual consent. However, it could be deemed unprofessional if it’s against the company’s policy and it makes co-workers feel uncomfortable. Whatever two people do outside the workplace is not anyone’s business, but all sorts of sexual behaviors should be avoided on the job.

Anyone who is directly or indirectly exposed to sexual harassment would be considered a victim. For example, a supervisor openly flirts with the receptionist during work hours. While the receptionist doesn’t seem to mind, others who witness the whole thing on a daily basis might feel disgusted or insecure by the vulgar comments and gesticulations.

Different forms of Sexual Harassment:


Physical sexual harassment can be clearly offensive or subtle; the perpetrator could be charged with assault and battery under extreme circumstances, such as attempted rape. Standing very close to someone at the workplace, blocking their way, ‘accidently’ brushing against them, and following them unnecessarily on purpose counts as sexual harassment. Unwanted touching, such as leaning onto someone, placing a hand on their hand/shoulder/back/thigh while talking, or initiating any other kind of physical contact without permission is absolutely unacceptable in a professional environment.


Verbal and written sexual harassment is usually obvious, since the perpetrator uses words to communicate their objective. For example, a manager might demand a sexual favor from a newcomer in private or an employee relentlessly asks their colleague out on a date, in person or through texts. Sending sexually suggestive jokes, using sexually explicit language, whistling, and making lewd comments about someone’s physical appearance all different forms of sexual harassment at work.


Visual sexual harassment is typically understated, and sometimes hard to prove. For example, a person might feel intimidated by a co-worker’s lustful stares, uncouth gestures, and sexually suggestive body language. While there is no physical contact or voicing of lecherous intentions, the perpetrator may employ hand signs/motions, as well as facial expressions to coerce the victim.

There are two main categories of Workplace Sexual Harassment:

 1.  Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid Pro Quo Harassment can be described as a ‘this for that’ approach. The perpetrator in this case is a person of authority in the workplace, i.e. they hold the power to fire or promote an employee. The purpose is to get a sexual favor for providing a work incentive. For example, a supervisor may offer a raise or promotion to a worker in exchange for having sex with them. This type of harassment could also be used as a tool of extortion/blackmail, rather than a mutually beneficial arrangement. For instance, a manager may threaten to fire an employee or reveal their professional blunder if they do not agree to a sexual service.

  2. Hostile Working Environment

A hostile environment can be caused by any individual or group, regardless of their rank in the workplace. It could be colleagues who make sex-related jokes on the job and share sexually graphic stuff via emails and messages. They might wear allusive clothes, display randy content (through posters/pinups), or watch pornography at work. Unwelcomed philandering, touching, personal questions relating to one’s sex life, and sensual compliments are all part of a hostile working environment. If you have encountered sexual harassment at work, Southern California Sexual Harassment Attorney can help you obtain justice.

The Effects of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Companies with the reputation of a hostile working environment have a large turnover and an overall shortage of competent employees. Nobody wants to work for a firm that has been associated with one or more cases or sexual harassment in the past. The victims of sexual harassment sustain mental and physical injuries because of the aggressive behavior of alleged offenders. The costs of attaining legal and criminal justice, as well as rehabilitation of disabled or unemployed victims are a blow to the economy. Some victims are forced to abandon or compromise on their career, and few even commit suicide. Manny employers have to suffer due to the misconduct of a single or few employees, which results in major or irreversible damage to the business.