Are sexual comments a form of sexual harassment?

Experiencing sexual harassment at work is more traumatic than most people think. Victims usually suffer significant psychological effects like depression, anxiety, headaches, sexual dysfunction, sleep problems and lowered self-esteem.

When you hear someone making a sexual comment about you, you may not know what to do at first. But when you finally gather enough courage to tell them to stop, they may act like you’re the problem and brush it off as a joke. However, while sexual comments may appear subtle, they are considered a form of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination

Sexual harassment can be defined as a form of gender discrimination, usually based on old-fashioned stereotypes concerning a person’s sex. Therefore, sharing any inappropriate sexual comments or jokes in the workplace is considered a form of sexual harassment.

This is because unwanted sexual comments can be used to demean gender identity or sexual orientation. They can also be lightly concealed attempts to insult a co-worker. On the other hand, sexual comments can range from passing unwanted comments about someone’s appearance to a more hostile criticism of someone’s sexual likes.

Types of sexual comments that are considered sexual harassment

Sexual comments that might lead to sexual harassment are, but are not limited to:

  • Sexual comments about another person’s anatomy, appearance and clothing
  • Insensitive or dishonorable jokes related to sex
  • Using derogatory terms to describe a person’s gender
  • Sexual suggestions or stories
  • Unwanted sexual gestures or teasing
  • Spreading rumors about a person’s gender
  • Talking about sexual history, preferences or fantasies

How to report sex harassment

Usually, the first thing to do after experiencing sexual harassment in the form of sexual comments is to report it. Most companies have guidelines for reporting sexual harassment, which include what the company considers sexual harassment, how to report sexual harassment cases, the investigation process and penalties for sexual harassment. You can also consider reporting the incident to a government agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is a federal agency that investigates discrimination claims.

Any form of sexual harassment is illegal. If you are a victim of sexual harassment and reporting the person hasn’t helped, consider seeking legal advice as soon as possible.

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