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Recognizing sexual harassment in the workplace

Flirting and crude jokes are a part of the work environment in many industries. Whether your coworkers catcall an associate as she walks past, or you and your office mates laugh over a racy joke in the break room, it would seem like behavior of a sexual nature is normal and even encouraged. Like many Georgia residents, you may wonder if this behavior is acceptable or qualifies as sexual harassment.


According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the key point that defines sexual harassment is when the behavior is unwanted. This behavior of a sexual nature can be verbal, visual or physical. The following examples can help clarify what constitutes sexual harassment:

  • Your coworkers frequently share sexually explicit jokes that you find offensive, embarrassing and demeaning.
  • A coworker calls you into her cubicle and shows you a mildly pornographic video that you did not want to see.
  • Your associates make frequent crude comments about an attractive coworker.
  • A manager has pinned sexually explicit posters to his office wall, which others can see through the door and windows.
  • Your boss has implied that tolerating sexual comments, touch and other advances by customers is a part of your job, and that you may lose your job if you complain.
  • A coworker makes continued advances toward you that are escalating despite you telling him to stop.

It can be difficult to stand up to sexual harassment. Your associates may tease you for being a spoilsport, or you might worry about receiving discipline. You might even wonder if it is sexual harassment if you willingly participated in the behavior at first but later changed your mind. It can also be difficult to recognize sexual harassment if it started out subtle but gradually became worse, as is common. You should understand that you have a right to work in an environment where you feel safe and do not experience offensive or threatening treatment.

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