Sexual harassment in the workplace may be illegal, but it is a persistent problem. In fact, a recent survey shows that 81% of women are victims of sexual harassment. This is unacceptable because you should never need to deal with sexual misconduct at your job. Thankfully, you can report inappropriate behavior and take legal action to protect yourself.

But what happens when you are not sure if you are experiencing harassment? Here is a quick guide to help you figure out if you are the victim of illegal harassment.

Definition of sexual harassment

You should know that the law is on your side. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act explicitly outlaws two types of sexual harassment:

  • Hostile work environment: Unwelcome sexual conduct that is so serious or frequent that it creates an abusive environment or negatively impacts your working conditions.
  • Quid pro quo: Requests for sexual favors in exchange for a job action, such as offering you a promotion for a sexual act or threatening to fire you unless you perform a sexual act.

These broad categories cover a wide range of behaviors and activities.

Examples of misconduct

Of course, some actions are clearly sexual harassment. For example, groping or saying sexually explicit comments are obviously inappropriate. But some forms of harassment are more subtle. Some behaviors and interactions that may be sexual harassment include the following:

  • Giving repetitive compliments of your appearance
  • Asking you about your sex life
  • Making sexual jokes
  • Sending sexual emails or text messages
  • Showing you sexually explicit videos or images
  • Spreading sexual rumors about you
  • Giving hugs, massages or holding hands

Any of these acts may constitute harassment if they are so severe or occur on a regular basis that they make you uncomfortable and interfere with your work.

Sexual harassment is always unlawful, whether it is a co-worker, manager, boss or even a customer, vendor or contractor.