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What Qualifies as Sexual Harassment?

Workers in California and the rest of the country need to be aware of what behavior qualifies as sexual harassment. In some situations, it can be hard to determine if what is happening is illegal. Knowing what is considered sexual harassment can give you the confidence you need to protect yourself and your rights.

The American Association of University Women states that there are some actions that are obviously harassment, including requests for sexual favors, force, or unwelcome touching. If you are threatened or bribed for a salary or position at work in exchange for sexual acts, this is also considered harassment.

While these examples are more obvious, there are some more discreet behaviors that also qualify. Any display of graphic or illicit content can be considered harassment. Suggestive jokes, innuendos or comments can also qualify, as can suggestive brushing against another person. Even if the harassment is indirect, you have a right to report anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

One factor of harassment that you need to consider is how often the offensive behavior has occurred. A single instance may not qualify your workplace as a hostile environment, unless it is tied to your employment or benefits or if the incident is severe. In most cases, you will need to prove that there is a pattern of offensive behavior.

If you feel that there is harassment occurring at your workplace, your first step should be to ask the harasser to stop, explain what is bothering you and also why it is. If you feel uncomfortable speaking directly to the person, you can follow your employer’s sexual harassment policy and provide supervisors with reports of exactly what was said or done and the dates of each incident. This information it intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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