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Common misconceptions about workplace sexual harassment

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in workplaces throughout Minnesota and elsewhere. In fact, a 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan magazine of 2,235 women workers between 18 and 34-years-old found that approximately one out of every three has been the victim of workplace sexual harassment. Although this is a well-known issue, workers may not understand what constitutes sexual harassment on-the-job.

Federal law prohibits people from harassing employees or job applicants because of their sex. When most people think of sexual harassment, requests for sexual favors and unwelcome sexual advances are what comes to mind. While these are among the most common examples of sexual harassment, there are numerous other actions that may make a person’s work environment offense or hostile, and thus, may be regarded as sexual harassment.

Offhand comments, frequent and severe teasing, and other physical and verbal harassment that is of a sexual nature are often considered sexual harassment. Though, sexual harassment in the workplace is not always of a sexual nature. Offensive remarks about a worker’s sex may also constitute this type of behavior. For example, a person making derogatory or otherwise offensive comments about men or women in general may be considered sexual harassment.

Often, people believe that sexual harassment only happens between a man and a woman, and usually the man is the aggressor. However, that is not necessarily the case. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a woman or a man can be a victim or a harasser in sexual harassment cases. Furthermore, this type of unprofessional behavior may involve employees of the same sex. The harasser in such cases does not have to be the victim’s superior in the workplace. Rather, it may also be a co-worker, another supervisor or even someone who does not work with the victim.

When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, it may turn a job that someone loves into one that they loathe. Employees have rights, however, and may take action to stop this type of behavior from continuing. Those who have experienced this type of mistreatment on the job may find it helpful to consult with an attorney to discuss their options.

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