Learn the signs of sexual harassment at work and what you can do to protect your rights.

8 Signs That You are Being Sexually Harassed at Work

By Levin Simes
April 17, 2024

Am I Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

No one should have to experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Learn how to recognize signs of harassment and what your rights are if you have been harassed. 

Movements such as #MeToo and high-profile celebrity cases have done much to expose instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. However, cases still happen, and many people still face workplace sexual harassment issues at their job. 

Everyone is entitled to a workplace that is free of unwanted and unconsented-to sexual behavior. But in some cases, sexual harassment can occur in subtle ways where the victim might not even be aware that their most personal rights are being violated. They might get a sense that something is wrong, or they might feel uncomfortable without knowing why. 

In this article, we will outline 8 signs of sexual harassment at work. These will help you recognize when harassment might be occurring, and what you can do to protect yourself.

If you suspect that you have experienced sexual harassment in your workplace, you have every right to ensure that such behavior is addressed and that your rights are not violated. If you have suffered any type of loss or distress due to the harassing behavior, you might be entitled to compensation through legal action.

At Levin Simes, we stand for what’s right and seek to protect our communities and workplaces from all forms of sexual harassment. Contact us at (415) 426-3000 to set up a no-obligation consultation. We can discuss what happened in a completely private, confidential setting.

8 Signs of Being Sexually Harassed at Work

Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment in the workplace can be difficult. Signs of sexual harassment may not always be readily apparent or obvious. Sexual harassment can take many different forms, including unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other inappropriate misconduct. It can also include behavior that is not overtly sexual, such as offensive remarks or jokes about someone’s gender.

Below are 8 signs that may indicate that sexual harassment has occurred:

1) Unwanted Physical Contact

Unwelcome or unwanted physical contact may be an immediate sign of sexual harassment in the workplace. This can include unwanted contact such as:

  • Hugging
  • Grabbing
  • Patting
  • Pinching
  • Touching
  • Kissing
  • Groping

The type of physical contact in question can range from mild and seemingly harmless to highly intrusive. Assaults of a sexual nature are the most severe forms of unwelcome sexual contact in the workplace. 

The key aspect here is that the contact is unwanted or unwelcome. Thus, if one employee continues engaging in physical contact after the other has made it clear that they do not consent to it, it should be reported immediately. 

2) Requesting for Sexual Favors

A specific type of sexual harassment that can happen is when one employee asks another for sexual favors in return for some sort of job benefit, or to avoid a negative consequence. This is usually done by a person of authority towards someone they may be supervising. 

For instance, a supervisor might request a sexual favor in return for promoting the employee or getting them a pay raise. This is known as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, which means “this for that.” This type of scenario may also include threats of negative consequences if the request is refused. 

3) Sexualized or Lewd Conversations

Conversations of a sexualized nature or lewd communications may be considered a form of sexual harassment. Examples of this are when employees openly discuss their sexual lives or sex acts, refer to pornography, or make descriptions in sexualized terms. Such behavior could be considered harassment even if the employee feeling uncomfortable was merely overhearing the conversation and not taking part in it. 

Lewd communications can also include the circulating or sending of sexual images, videos, gifs, or memes through digital channels like chat or email.

4) Unwanted Sexual Attention

Another sign of sexual harassment is when an employee persists in directing unwanted sexual attention toward another employee. For instance, repeatedly making inappropriate compliments or repeatedly commenting on a co-worker’s physical traits may be classified as harassment in the workplace. Repeatedly asking for dates is another common example. 

Such conduct can make an employee feel objectified or humiliated, and can also create tensions and strain work relationships. This type of behavior often overlaps with sexualized or lewd communications. 

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major violation of a person’s dignity and personal rights. If you have experienced harassment, or have witnessed it at your job, it is important that you communicate what happened to the proper department.

If you have been harassed at work, you may need to pursue legal action for compensation and other remedies, such as a change in work policies. At Levin Simes, our women-led team of attorneys has extensive experience handling sexual harassment claims at work and other institutional settings.

Contact us at (415) 426-3000 for a free consultation to discuss your case in a confidential setting.

5) Making Sexual Jokes

Similar to sexualized conversations, subjecting others to sexual jokes is a common sign of sexual harassment. This can include sexually explicit comments, noises, and gestures which are inappropriate in the workplace. Exposing others to this type of behavior may also be considered a hostile work environment. It can also occur online and through digital communications. 

With the rise of work-from-home arrangements, employees are communicating with each other online more than ever before. Sexual jokes and harassment can occur during non-work hours as well, away from the actual physical workplace. 

If you have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the form of jokes or online messages, it is highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced workplace sexual harassment attorney. 

6) Sexually-Based Insults

Sexually-charged insults, gender-based slurs, or derogatory language based on a person’s sex can be another sign of sexual harassment in the workplace. Such insults may often be aimed at humiliating or intimidating another employee, which also creates a hostile environment. 

Note that such insults don’t necessarily need to be completely sexual in nature; they may be based on a person’s sex or gender identity (for instance, stating that a certain gender doesn’t perform work as well). 

7) Non-Verbal Harassment That Creates Fear or Discomfort

Sexual harassment in the workspace can include non-verbal misconduct, such as suggestive body language, sensual gestures, facial expressions, and other behaviors. These types of body language are highly inappropriate for the workplace. 

Again, such conduct doesn’t need to be specifically directed at an individual; even just witnessing such body language can make a person uncomfortable and warrant a sexual harassment claim. 

8) Retaliation Against Employees

One aspect of sexual harassment is when a victim of harassment experiences backlash for reporting instances of sexual harassment. This is known as “retaliation,” and can take various forms, such as:

  • Terminating the employee who filed the complaint
  • Denying the employee a promotion or raise
  • Burdening the harassment victim with heavy workloads
  • Modifying the victim’s job role to be less favorable

Retaliation is essentially an abuse of power against employees who file a report, including those who witnessed the misconduct. 

While retaliation in itself may not be of a sexual nature, its occurrence could signify that someone has “something to hide” or is trying to cover something up. It can involve the concerted efforts of multiple people who are working together to conceal the sexual harassment. 

What To Do If You’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work

The above factors could all be indications that you have been sexually harassed in the workplace. If you believe you were a victim of harassment, there are several steps you can take to begin protecting your rights: 

  • If you were injured or believe your safety is in danger, seek medical attention, and contact a hotline or law enforcement
  • File a complaint or report with the human resources department at your work
  • Reach out to an attorney for advice and guidance; in some cases, you may need to file a complaint with a government agency, which an attorney can help you with
  • Gather any information or evidence that might be related to the incident, such as emails, documents, photos, or other items
  • Make a written account of the event(s) that happened in connection with the harassment

At Levin Simes, we understand that you may be going through a difficult time after being sexually harassed. Our team is on hand to assist you with filing, reporting, and other services so you can focus on self-care. 

Contact a Sexual Harassment Attorney

Everyone deserves a work environment that is free of harassment, misconduct, and other violations. If you were sexually harassed at work, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your losses. If you experienced retaliation for filing a report, a legal claim can help you get your job or position back. 

Sexual harassment is a serious violation that must be reported and corrected in order to keep the workplace safe. Pursuing legal action can help uncover other instances of misconduct and prevent future instances of harassment from happening. 

If you need the services of a lawyer, contact Levin Simes at (415) 426-3000 to speak with an attorney. We have a proven track record of fighting for those whose rights have been violated.

Related Resources

If you found this sexual harassment information helpful, please view the related topics below:

Contact us if you have specific questions on the matter or if you’d like to schedule a free consultation. 

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