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5 behaviors that are considered sexual harassment in the workplace

Employees often do not fully understand the broad scope of sexual harassment in the workplace. You need to be familiar with Minnesota sexual harassment laws to know if you have a civil case. It includes hostile environment harassment, in which the unwelcome behaviors cause your work environment to become hostile, offensive or intimidating. It also encompasses quid pro qui harassment, in which engaging in unwanted sexual conduct is necessary for you to obtain or retain employment, promotions or raises. The following are five examples of sexual harassment.

1. Sexual and sexist speech

If your employer or coworker uses unwelcome, repeated sexual and/or sexist speech around you, that is harassment even if the person doesn't do anything further. Examples of such speech include:

  • Crude or sexist jokes
  • Sexual references and gestures
  • Sexist comments and other derogatory language

This type falls under hostile environment harassment.

2. Requests for dates and sexual favors

Your harasser may also repeatedly ask you to go on dates or engage in sexual favors despite your negative response. The person may insist it's just a joke and not a serious request, but it still counts as harassment.

3. Presentation of sexual materials

Another behavior is to show you, or even just display, sexually suggestive materials. This can be anything from sharing pornography with you to simply having inappropriate photos as screensavers. Taking away your choice to view such materials makes your workplace unsafe.

4. Unwanted physical touch

Physical touch is most often associated with sexual harassment because it is the most obvious and concrete behavior. The important thing to know is that this includes more than just sexual touches. Any type of touch that you have not given permission for or that makes you feel uncomfortable is unacceptable.

5. Exchange of sexual favors for job-related incentives

The harassment may escalate to requiring you to give the person sexual favors in return for receiving or keeping your job or earning promotions and raises. This behavior tends to be the most easily litigated because the effect on your employment is very clear.

Act immediately

If you suspect you're a recipient of sexual harassment, talk to an attorney right away because the Minnesota statute of limitations can be as short as a year. An attorney can also help you determine if you have a civil case. The harassment must meet certain requirements, with slight modifications depending on whether the harasser is a supervisor or coworker, for you to take legal action. If you lost your job due to reporting sexual harassment, known as retaliation, you can also benefit from an attorney.

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