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Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment at work

Good-natured teasing is often a normal part of any workplace. However, there is a difference between harmless joking around and unlawful sexual harassment. You might be experiencing some behavior at work that is causing you to wonder if someone is crossing a line. It can help you and other Michigan employees to understand what constitutes sexual harassment, as well as your legal rights.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as any type of behavior, language or physical action of a sexual nature at work that is unwanted or unwelcome. You might experience any of the following scenarios at your workplace, which qualify as sexual harassment:

  • Your boss tells you that suggestive comments or physical touching by your customers is just a part of the job and is good for business, and you must accept it as a condition of employment. Furthermore, you might be afraid that speaking up against the behavior will cause your supervisor to demote or fire you.
  • A co-worker makes lewd comments about you or others in front of you, repeatedly asks you out despite being turned down and is a bit “handsy.” You might have even noticed him following you during your off hours.
  • Your manager tells jokes that make you feel uncomfortable or creeped out, and keeps sexually suggestive or offensive material in plain view in her office.
  • Subcontractors or associates of your workplace talk openly about offensive topics when visiting your workplace, and your superiors either encourage the behavior or do nothing to stop it.

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, male or female, in any type of work environment. It is important to know that the law entitles you to a workplace where you do not feel demeaned, embarrassed or threatened, and you have the right to report sexual harassment without fear of the consequences.