It is important for workers to understand their rights, and they should learn the legal terms and definitions that accompany them. Some of these terms can be broad or vague—sexual and non-sexual harassment being apt examples. To shed some light on what these terms mean, let’s review the differences between sexual and non-sexual harassment and what they may look like in the workplace.
Both sexual and non-sexual harassment encompass a wide range of behaviors and actions. We can define sexual harassment as any unwanted or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, request for sexual favors, and/or sexual advances. The key phrase here is “unwanted or unwelcome.” While it may not always be appropriate for certain employees to engage in sexual behavior with one another, it’s not illegal if all parties are consenting.
Non-sexual harassment, also known as harassment, is unwanted or unwelcome behavior that is offensive or has the intention to demean, humiliate, or intimidate a person. Under the eyes of the law and for a judge to consider an action harassment, the behavior must make a “normal or reasonable person” feel uncomfortable. Sexual harassment is a type of harassment.
When comparing sexual and non-sexual harassment in the workplace, know that one involves behavior of a sexual nature while the other does not.
Workplace harassment includes physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual harassment. This can include anything and everything from intimidation, threats, and ridicule to name-calling, physical assault, and slurs. It can also include showing offensive objects or pictures, and it does not have to be in-person for a court to consider an action harassment. As mentioned, for a judge to consider an action harassment, it must be offensive to a normal and reasonable person. It must also interfere with work performance.
These stipulations ensure a scorned coworker doesn’t falsely accuse another of harassment. For example, if a coworker annoys you by insulting your favorite sports team, this is not harassment. However, if a coworker continuously insults your appearance or intelligence, a judge may be willing to open a harassment case.
Many types of sexual harassment can occur in the workplace. Verbal sexual harassment, sexual assault (molestation or rape), third-party sexual harassment, and quid pro quo sexual harassment are all possible. It is important to understand that not all forms of sexual harassment are obvious or outwardly violent, which makes knowing these definitions so important.
Molestation is nonconsensual sexual touching, while rape is the nonconsensual penetration of a person with an object, digit, or genitalia—both are types of sexual harassment that fall under sexual assault. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a person in an authority position demands—directly or indirectly—sexual favors from an employee in return for a reward or to avoid punishment. Third-party sexual harassment is when someone unaffiliated with the company, such as a customer or vendor, sexually harasses an employee. Just because someone did not experience physical aggression or was not nonconsensually penetrated does not mean they did not experience sexual assault.
At the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder, we understand how difficult and frightening it can be to come forward with a sexual harassment claim. That’s why our sexual misconduct lawyers will treat your case with the utmost care, respect, and confidentiality. We’re here to help you hold aggressors and abusers accountable, not to question your experience.