“No sex jokes, sexting, touching, or invading my space.”
Employment-related sexual harassment can happen outside the workplace and after working hours. Anyone can report workplace sexual harassment. There’s a role for employers to establish a policy, train their employees to understand what constitutes sexual harassment, learn how to prevent it, and how to step in and stop it.
So what kind of behaviours make up sexual workplace harassment? Sexual comments. Displaying or sharing sexual images. Spreading rumours about someone’s sexual behaviour or sexual identity. Stalking. Promising something in return for sex. Suggestive comments, gestures, and the like. Unwelcome comments about someone’s appearance. Unwelcome touching of any kind. Questioning someone’s sexual history, preferences, partners, etc. Sending messages, pictures, or videos of a sexual nature, or asking someone to send you sexual messages, pictures, or video.
The following behaviours might not be sexual harassment. Feedback about your work. Discipline related to your work performance. Choice of work tasks assigned to you. Consensual flirting, teasing, etc. Consensual office relationships.
What to do if you’re sexually harassed at work
If you have an HR manager, report it to them. Give details – when, who, what, and any witnesses or other evidence (e.g., texts or emails).
If you don’t have an HR manager, report it to your supervisor. If the supervisor is your harasser, report to another supervisor – preferably one who is superior to them. If the highest level supervisor or the owner is the harasser, you can report to a lower level supervisor or file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
Sometimes, the situation can be resolved by telling the harasser, either personally or in writing, that they behaviour is inappropriate and unacceptable.
Sometimes a mediator (either from inside your organization or outside) can be used to try to resolve the situation.
Some of the possible consequences for workplace harassment are the harasser being required to apologise, or being required to attend training on appropriate workplace behaviour.
“Just joking is not a defense.”