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What sexual harassment on the job might look like

Too many people think of employment disputes as black-and-white. They think there are clearly two sides: the right side and the wrong side. However, while it may seem like that to outsiders, it can be much more difficult to see a potential issue on the job clearly when you are one of the parties involved.

For example, let's look at sexual harassment. You might think of it as someone verbally or physically accosting someone on the job in a sexual nature. While this can certainly be one example of sexual harassment, it is not the only one.

Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile working environments.

Quid pro quo harassment involves an exchange of one thing for another. This could include a supervisor promising a promotion to an employee who agrees to a date or to exchange in a physical relationship. It could also mean penalizing an employee who refuses to engage in such conduct.

A hostile work environment can be a little harder to define. Essentially, it involves a workplace that makes a person feel intimidated, scared, abused or hostile. In cases where this environment stems from inappropriate and unwanted touching, comments or conduct of a sexual nature, the affected person may have grounds for a sexual harassment claim.

If either of these situations sounds like one you may be experiencing, you may not initially identify it as one that violates your rights and protections from sexual harassment. When in doubt, you should speak with your supervisor or a Human Resources representative.

If no action is taken to address the situation or it is not done in a satisfactory manner, you may want to strongly consider discussing your options with an attorney. Too many people face devastating and unlawful situations at work because they do not know or understand their rights as employees. With legal support, you can get the answers you need to protect yourself, your job and your well-being.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Sexual Harassment," accessed on Nov. 3, 2015

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