Our society has become more open to speaking about sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite major progress in this area, there are still many pervasive myths about sexual harassment that may prevent some victims from speaking up about the abuse they endure at their place of employment.
For example, many people imagine that sexual harassment involves a man in a position of authority using their role to coerce sexual favors from women or get a free pass on creepy or offensive comments. However, men can be victims of sexual harassment, too. Women can harass male employees just as easily as men can harass their female co-workers and subordinates.
Additionally, it is possible for women to sexually harass other women and for men to sexually harass other men. Same-sex sexual harassment goes underreported in many cases because of a lack of social understanding.
Anyone who is attracted to you could harass you
Some people have same-sex attractions or feel attracted to people of both sexes. Those individuals could very easily engage in sexual harassment of their same-sex coworkers. Through making unwanted advances, offering quid pro quo benefits to subordinates or even engaging frequently in unwanted sexual or suggestive conversations, some employees can create an intensely hostile work environment for others.
The best approach to these situations is usually to directly and firmly rebuff the advances of the other person. However, people don't always handle rejection well. They may redouble their efforts or otherwise become abusive and hostile toward you. Documenting what you experience and reporting it to human resources can be an important step toward reducing abusive behavior.
Insulting or shaming a co-worker for their sexuality is another form of harassment
Perhaps you enjoy wearing high heels because they make you feel taller and more professional. Maybe you cultivate a certain degree of sex appeal in your professional appearance because you find it helps you close more sales. The way you conduct and express yourself should not be the concern of anyone else at your company unless it affects their work performance or violates company rules.
Unfortunately, some people can seek to curry favor with others by bullying someone else for the way they dress or their romantic decisions. If your co-workers routinely gossip about and shame you for your romantic or sexual decisions, that could be a form of sexual harassment, too.
Documenting the things people say and the jokes they make at your expense can help you prove a hostile work environment that developed because of your gender or sexuality. Talking with an attorney who has experience in workplace sexual harassment cases can help you get a better idea of what evidence would be necessary to support your case if your company won't take action on your behalf.