Hugs and kisses: Is one sexual harassment while the other is not?

Most people understand that there are certain actions that are generally considered impolite or otherwise unacceptable. In some situations, unwanted actions may even constitute harassment. Though sexual harassment in the workplace is a prominent topic as of late, many individuals in New York and elsewhere have different definitions of what actions land in this category.

In a recent report, the results of a poll conducted regarding this particular topic showed some interesting results. Apparently, the 3,000 participants indicated a general consensus that certain actions were sexual harassment but showed less certain conclusions for other actions. For instance, most of the participants indicated that non-consensual kissing and intentional groping fell into the category of sexual harassment, but what about hugging?

The poll indicated that 44 percent of the participants felt that non-consensual hugging constituted sexual harassment, but 40 percent of respondents did not feel that this action was harassing. Other actions that seemed to have battling responses included making vulgar jokes and making comments about a person’s body or appearance. Unfortunately, laws regarding sexual harassment do not make the situation much clearer as the definition remains relatively broad.

The responsibility for addressing sexual harassment and ensuring a safe work environment generally falls to employers. Therefore, those in New York who feel that they are facing harassment on the job can opt to discuss the issue with their employers as a viable first step. If the situations continue to go unresolved, there may be reason to take legal action against the offending parties and employers themselves. Speaking with knowledgeable attorneys may help concerned individuals better understand their options.

Source:, “Poll: Americans have very different definitions of sexual harassment at work,” Monica Torres, Dec. 28, 2017

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