Ask a Sexual Harassment Lawyer: 7 Things That May Be Considered Sexual Harassment

When companies fail to address sexual harassment, the consequences can be catastrophic. Allowing such behavior or failing to educate employees can lead to a toxic work environment in which morale suffers and team members are less productive. Further, it can lead to expensive lawsuits against the company. Here we provide some examples of inappropriate sexual behavior that may be considered harassment in Kansas City.

7 Things That May Be Considered Sexual Harassment in Kansas City

1. Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an authority figure such as a manager or supervisor suggests that in exchange for some sort of sexual favor, an employee will receive a raise, promotion, or some other relevant benefit. An example of this is a manager telling a female employee that she will be promoted to a new job with a higher salary if she agrees to have sex with him.

This also applies when a manager or supervisor threatens to fire or reprimand an employee for refusing to engage in sexual behavior. This may extend to job applicants where the hiring decision is based on whether the applicant accepts or rejects sexual advances. Examples include a supervisor telling an employee she will be fired unless she sleeps with him, or telling an applicant she will only get the job if she agrees to go out with him.

2. Repeated Compliments About Appearance

Harassment can also occur when someone repeatedly compliments a co-worker about their physical appearance. This could include making comments about clothing, makeup, hair, or body parts. If this occurs often enough, or with enough emphasis that it makes an employee uncomfortable, it may be considered harassment. It’s important to note that harassment can extend to clients or customers who aren’t actually employed by the company.

3. Asking Inappropriate Sexual Questions

Another example of harassment is when one employee asks another co-worker a question that is sexual in nature. This could include things like personal sexual history, preferred sexual behavior, or what they do or don’t do with sexual partners. An example of this is asking a co-worker about a date he or she went on last night, and whether or not there was sexual activity. These questions can alter working conditions and create a hostile workplace environment.

4. Making Lewd Sexual Jokes

Many of us have made or heard off-color jokes in normal daily life situations that unintentionally crossed some sort of boundary and caused someone else to be uncomfortable. This can certainly happen in the workplace, and if the jokes are sexual in nature it can have serious consequences. Employees should thus exercise extreme discretion when making jokes at work, as it’s difficult to know what might be offensive to others.

Examples of harassment extend beyond telling sexual jokes to things like saying suggestive things about other people, spreading sexual rumors about a co-worker, or making offensive comments about sexual orientation or gender identity. These can all be considered harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and any concerned employee or company should consult sexual harassment attorneys in Kansas City if they have any questions or doubts.

5. Sending Suggestive Notes, Messages, or Emails

In addition to inappropriate sexual comments and questions, harassment can include sending sexual images, gifs, memes, or videos to co-workers via non-verbal means. An example would be sharing a comical meme that is sexually suggestive in nature to a fellow employee via text message or email. This can be considered harassment even if the meme was simply meant as an innocent joke, without overtly sexual intentions.

6. Inappropriate Touching

Any sort of inappropriate or excessive touching can easily lead to a hostile work environment and is, therefore, something that requires extreme delicacy in the workplace. Employees should receive comprehensive education about using extreme discretion when it comes to any sort of physical contact in a work environment, as this is one of the most common complaints in harassment lawsuits.

Examples of inappropriate touching may include placing a hand on another employee’s back, purposefully brushing up against them, hugs, pinching, or patting. If in doubt, it’s easy to remember that no one ever gets in trouble for not touching another person.

7. Displaying Sexually Inappropriate Images in the Workplace

This is another situation that can be easily misinterpreted and thus calls upon companies to provide adequate guidance and education. When someone in the workplace displays photos, images, or posters that contain sexual content, this can make other employees uncomfortable and lead to claims of harassment. This may apply even if the employee only displays sexual content on his desk or in his or her own personal workspace.

This is only a partial list of situations and behavior that can be considered harassment. There is a wide range of activities that falls into this category, from sexual jokes and comments to sharing sexual content with others and making outright quid pro quo offers to subordinate employees.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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