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  • Writer's pictureLOTG

Being "Friendly" vs. Sexual Harassment

Updated: May 1

A knowing smile, frequent eye contact, a compliment — are they flirting? Are they only intending to be friendly?

Office flirting is very common. 40 to 47 percent of employees surveyed by Psychology Today in 2013 said they had been involved in a workplace romance, and 20 percent said they would be receptive to one.

The line is crossed, however, when one person pursues another after the other has made it clear that they are not interested in flirting. This becomes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual conduct. It can occur between coworkers, a supervisory relationship, workers of the same or opposite sexes, or a group.

Verbal behavior that might be classified as sexual harassment includes inappropriate comments and compliments, discussing sexual experiences, epithets, jokes, slurs, or repeatedly requesting dates or meetups outside of work.

Physical behavior that crosses the line from friendly to harassment might include grabbing, unwanted or prolonged hugging, pinching, physically blocking, rubbing of body parts, or touching intimate places and hair.

Visual sexual harassment behaviors could be any unwanted letters or emails, drawings or cartoons, or posters.

Ignoring sexual advances can sometimes lead to quid pro quo harassment, which is when the employer denies career advancement to the employee unless exchanged for the sexual encounter. Many employees who experience quid pro quo harassment do not report this issue for fear of retaliation. In this case, the employer may ignore the employee, give a negative performance report, gossip about the employee, or even fire them.

If you have or are suffering from sexual harassment, contact an experienced employment lawyer at Gomerman | Bourn & Associates. An attorney will be able to discuss your options with you.

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