Sexual harassment can happen just about anywhere, at any time, and to anyone. Even so, sexual harassment tends to happen most often in the workplace. When you go to work, you should never experience sexual harassment, but many people do – by bosses, coworkers, clients, and others.
But can sexual harassment exit the four walls of your workplace?
Yes. Sexual harassment at work can follow you outside the workplace.
You can hold your employer liable for harassment outside of your work location, and you deserve legal relief for what you experienced and the harm you suffered.
If you’re the victim of sexual harassment or suspect you might be, you don’t have to feel alone in your struggles. A qualified sexual harassment lawyer can provide proper guidance and advice and help you pursue the justice you deserve. Seek a legal consultation and evaluation of your options today.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment encompasses a variety of inappropriate and unwelcome behaviors, which can vary widely from . When a harasser engages in this type of wrongful behavior, they can make their victim feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or unsafe.
Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment can happen in almost any setting. Still, it tends to happen often at work, partially because of the different power imbalances within the workplace and the repeated interaction between harassers and their victims.
Another misconception is believing sexual harassment only happens to certain individuals. In reality, anyone can fall victim to sexual harassment. No matter your gender, age, or sexual orientation, you can face sexual harassment by a harasser of any gender, age, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment does not discriminate.
Finally, sexual harassment can involve one isolated incident or frequent improper interactions. What matters most is that you do not welcome the behavior, and it is bad enough to make them feel and react negatively.
Common Signs of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment often goes unreported, primarily because victims are unaware of what sexual harassment entails.
There is no set, strict behaviors that entail sexual harassment. Instead, harassment can involve several verbal, visual, and physical cues to make a victim feel uncomfortable and at risk.
Verbal signs of sexual harassment can include:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Sharing stories of sexual experiences or fantasies
- Comments about a person’s appearance or looks
- Rumors of the sexual variety
- Inappropriate phone calls or voice memos
- Repeatedly asking a person on dates
- Excessive flirting
- Asking inappropriate questions
Common non-verbal, visual signs that indicate sexual harassment include:
- Inappropriate facial expressions
- Blowing kisses
- Crude body gestures
- Sharing sexually explicit images or videos
- Exposing oneself
Physical sexual harassment often includes:
- Touching a person inappropriately
- Unwelcome touching
- Rubbing oneself sexually against another person
- Unsolicited massages
Often, harassers aim to use their words and actions to make their victims feel a certain type of way, especially in the workplace. Harassers may act inappropriately toward their victims and threaten or blackmail them to help ensure they stay tight-lipped about the situation.
Regardless of your experiences, if you feel you’ve fallen victim to sexual harassment, it’s essential to take action. If not, the behavior may continue, and the harasser may go unpunished, allowing them to target many other victims.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment happens in every type of workplace, from retail stores and small restaurants to established businesses and large corporations. Your experience may differ depending on the details of your harassment, including the identity of your harasser and the type of harassment you’re experiencing.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is so common; the law recognizes two of the most common kinds of sexual harassment situations: hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Hostile Work Environment
You may have previously heard of a hostile work environment but may not understand what it means. Additionally, many don’t realize this term relates to sexual harassment.
If you’re experiencing a hostile work environment, your harasser has likely created a particularly negative working environment for you. This circumstance may make it nearly impossible to feel comfortable and safe at work. A hostile work environment is not only just hostile but perhaps offensive and even abusive.
In a hostile work environment, the harasser’s sexual conduct is usually bad enough that even the most reasonable person will find it offensive. In addition, the behaviors a victim experiences in this situation usually occur over an extended period and on several occasions rather than just one sole incident.
Those that work with you are not the only individuals responsible for creating a hostile work environment. Aside from supervisors and coworkers, other individuals that frequent your place of work can also create such an environment for you, including vendors, customers, and clients.
A hostile work environment can affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, affecting their ability to work and earn a living. In this environment, you may not want to report your harasser, as you may worry about what that will mean for your career and future.
Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo sexual harassment varies greatly from hostile work environment harassment.
In Latin, quid pro quo stands for “something for something“. Therefore, this type of sexual harassment involves the harasser asking their victim for something in exchange for something else.
Usually, quid pro quo harassers are in positions of power, giving them the upper hand on their victims. Additionally, these higher-up positions give the harasser the power to provide their victims with a sought-after benefit, which they use to their advantage.
Most commonly, quid pro quo harassers ask for sexual favors in exchange for work benefits, including:
- Transfers to other locations
- Protection for layoffs and firings
Under these unique circumstances, many times, victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment feel they have no choice but to agree to their harasser’s requests. Failing to comply can result in negative consequences with lasting effects.
For this reason, victims often agree to their harasser’s requests, as bad as some may be. However, even if you, as a victim, agree to do whatever your harasser asks of you, this does not take away your right to justice in the future. Complying with the request your harasser makes of you does not change anything.
Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Just Have to Happen Inside the Workplace
Sexual harassment doesn’t just stop once the clock hits 5 o’clock. While it is true some harassers only harass their victims at work during work hours, some harassers also choose to take it outside the four walls of the workplace. This is especially true if you work for a company or business encouraging out-of-office gatherings and relationships with coworkers.
For some employees, escaping social outings and events with coworkers is impossible. You’ll likely see your coworkers and other work-related contacts outside the office, whether during an after-work happy hour or the yearly holiday party.
In these social settings is where sexual harassment often starts. Alternatively, a social event or outing can only make the harassment worse, as coworkers and supervisors are in more relaxed settings and don’t feel watched. Additionally, social settings usually involve alcohol, which often escalates the matter.
Mingling with coworkers and work contacts outside of work can easily result in sexual harassment.
If your job takes you on frequent work trips, this can easily result in sexual harassment. This is particularly true if you take frequent work trips with your harasser or visit certain work locations where your harasser works.
Like social outings, work trips often involve casual gatherings, which usually involve alcohol. The primary difference is that you’re not going home at the end of the day and likely head to a hotel, which can give a harasser an easier opportunity to act wrongfully.
Working from Home
Workplace sexual harassment doesn’t just happen in person – online sexual harassment is also very real.
After the pandemic and the rise in remote jobs, sexual harassment happens more frequently online. While physical harassment is out of the question, this doesn’t stop harassers from engaging in inappropriate behaviors. In an online setting, people can send digital content on private and public platforms, including unwelcome and explicit photos, videos, emails, and instant messages.
Workplace Romances Gone Wrong
It’s worth noting that some sexual harassment situations don’t arise out of the blue. Instead, what starts as a workplace romance can quickly take a turn for the worst and become sexual harassment.
Many companies have certain policies for workplace relationships. Many allow these inter-office relationships as long as the couple makes the employer aware, while others strongly deter their employees from dating each other.
Even if you had a romantic relationship with a coworker they cannot sexually harass you. Sexual harassment is still wrong, no matter the relationship the harasser shares with their victim.
Does the Law Protect Victims of Sexual Harassment Outside of Work?
Yes – sexual harassment is wrong and unlawful, regardless of the setting. This means that even if your workplace sexual harassment occurs somewhere else, the law still protects you.
What Laws Pertain to Sexual Harassment?
Several state and federal laws exist to protect against different types of harassment, including sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act. If you experience sexual harassment, take action against your harasser and/or employer.
Depending on your situation, you may recover damages. Therefore, talk to a lawyer who can explain the relevant laws and how to protect your right to compensation.
Taking Action for Sexual Harassment
When you fall victim to sexual harassment, don’t wait to take action. This usually starts by notifying your employer of the harassment based on their harassment policy, if one exists. Employers usually expect to learn about situations like harassment so they can investigate and take appropriate action.
Depending on the outcome of your employer’s investigation, you may decide to take your sexual harassment complaint to the governmental level. You can file a formal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency tasked with protecting victims of discrimination, or a state-level agency, like the California Civil Rights Department (CRD), which protects state residents from unlawful conduct.
Through either agency, you may have the agency itself investigate your claims to determine whether your employer violated the law. If so, the agency can attempt to remedy the situation for you.
Alternatively, you may elect to seek a right to sue. A right-to-sue letter from either agency gives you the green light to file your lawsuit.
You may not know how best to take action for sexual harassment in (and out) of the workplace. For this reason, rely on a sexual harassment attorney for guidance.
A Sexual Harassment Attorney Can Help You Navigate Your Claim
Sexual harassment can have many mental, emotional, and physical effects on a victim. Experiencing sexual harassment can bring about many negative feelings, including worry, fear, and anxiety. You shouldn’t have to add to your stress by handling your own sexual harassment claim.
Strong representation can reach the best possible outcome. Additionally, having an employement attorney in San Diego on your side can provide much-needed peace of mind during a turbulent time.
The law gives you limited time to take action for your sexual harassment case. Contact a local sexual harassment firm in San Diego as soon as possible to discuss your case with a skilled attorney.