Examples of Sexual and Non-Sexual Harassment

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What is considered sexual harassment at work? Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination and includes any uninvited comments, conduct, or behavior regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

Sexual vs. Non-Sexual Harassment

Even though it's the type of harassment that is most often reported, harassment in the workplace and in hiring isn't limited to sexual harassment. Other actions regarding religion, race, age, gender, or skin color, for example, can also be considered harassment if they interfere with an employee's success or conjure a hostile work environment.

Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Whether the offense is made by a manager, co-worker, or even a non-employee like a client, contractor, or vendor, if the conduct creates a hostile work environment or interrupts an employee's success, it is considered unlawful sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment isn't limited to making inappropriate advances. In fact, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that creates a hostile work environment.

Review examples of sexual harassment in the workplace and information on how to handle it if you have been harassed at work.

  • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos, such as pornography, with co-workers
  • Sending suggestive letters, notes, or e-mails
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual images or posters in the workplace
  • Telling lewd jokes, or sharing sexual anecdotes
  • Making inappropriate sexual gestures
  • Staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, or whistling
  • Making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts
  • Inappropriate touching, including pinching, patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person
  • Asking sexual questions, such as questions about someone's sexual history or their sexual orientation
  • Making offensive comments about someone's sexual orientation or gender identity

    These are just some examples of sexual harassment. Any action that creates a sexual hostile work environment is considered sexual harassment, and the victim of the harassment may not be just the target of the offense, but anyone who is affected by the inappropriate behavior.

    Examples of Non-Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

    Behavior such as making racist or negative comments can be construed as workplace harassment. Offensive gestures, drawings or clothing also constitutes harassment. Review these examples of non-sexual harassment and advice on what to do if you have been harassed at work or during a job interview.

    Instances of workplace harassment include discrimination such as:

    • Making negative comments about an employee's personal religious beliefs, or trying to convert them to a certain religious ideology
    • Using racist slang, phrases, or nicknames
    • Making remarks about an individual's skin color or other ethnic traits
    • Displaying racist drawings, or posters that might be offensive to a particular group
    • Making offensive gestures
    • Making offensive reference to an individual's mental or physical disability
    • Sharing inappropriate images, videos, e-mails, letters, or notes in an offensive nature
    • Offensively talking about negative racial, ethnic, or religious stereotypes
    • Making derogatory age-related comments
    • Wearing clothing that could be offensive to a particular ethnic group

    Non-sexual harassment isn't limited to these examples. Non-sexual harassment includes any comment, action, or type of behavior that is threatening, insulting, intimidating or discriminatory and upsets the workplace environment.

    It's Important to Know the Rules

    When you're job searching, it's important to know that rules apply as to what employers can and cannot ask, related to some of the harassment examples listed above.

    During an interview, employers should not be asking about your race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual preferences or age.

    Related Articles: How to Handle Workplace Harassment Issues | Examples of Employment Discrimination