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The Difference Between Sexual and Non-Sexual Harassment at Work

Being pressured, embarrassed, or intimidated at work can make going to your job every day incredibly difficult. These situations are challenging to deal with and also leave you feeling confused as to how you can put a stop to them. You should not have to work under these conditions, and there are laws that protect your rights, so you don't have to work under this form of harassment. But how do you distinguish between sexual and non-sexual harassment?

Non-Sexual Harassment versus Sexual Harassment

One form of harassment in the workplace that consists of any unwelcome behavior, conduct, or comments regarding your sexual orientation, gender, or sex is considered sexual harassment. This harassment not only includes physical touches; it includes suggestive comments, or the posting of lewd emails, offensive images, or even suggestive looks by another worker or member of management. This form of harassment can occur between opposite sex or same-sex co-workers.

Non-sexual harassment can often look a lot like sexual harassment because it is unwanted conduct from a co-worker occurring in your workplace that interferes with your work. This form of harassment also creates a hostile work environment and includes offensive language or actions against religion, age, ethnicity, or race. Non-sexual harassment can also include situations which are hostile against your disability, intelligence, or physical state.

Forms of Non-Sexual Harassment

There can be any type of aggressor in your workplace, whether co-worker or someone in management who displays non-sexual harassment towards you. Some of the common forms of non-sexual harassment in the workplace include:

Physical harassment which leaves a more significant impact on you then verbal abuse. This behavior constitutes pushing, hitting, groping, or any other form of bullying. This form of harassment often becomes associated with sexual harassment in the workplace, depending on the actions of the aggressor.

Verbal harassment is perhaps the most common form and includes insults, jokes innuendos, slurs, or any type of derogatory remark made against you.

Co-worker harassment is when someone you work with creates an offensive work atmosphere by using verbal or written actions which make you feel trapped or helpless.

Management harassment is when someone in a position of authority over you uses their position to intimidate you with their ability to control your shifts, wages, promotions, or job title. Management harassment can fall into the category of sexual harassment in the workplace.

What is Considered Offensive Conduct in the Workplace?

When you need to determine if you are experiencing offensive conduct by management or another co-worker, the key is deciding if the actions are unwanted, unwarranted, or unwelcomed. There are basically two types of harassment found in the workplace- quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo is often mixed with sexual harassment but can branch out into other forms of abuse. Typically the aggressor demands that you do something for them to receive a benefit you have the right to without performing any action, especially the activity they are requesting.

Hostile work environment varies from quid pro quo, and it only creates a hostile work environment. In cases that fall into this category, the victim often fails to work up to their full potential due to sexual advances, ridicule, teasing, or off-color comments.

What is Considered Unwelcome Conduct?

To define harassment in the workplace, you have to determine what is considered unwelcome conduct. This is the key to determining if the behavior is legal or illegal. When filing a complaint against another for harassment, whether sexual or non-sexual, you have to present evidence of unwelcome conduct.

If your aggressor can show you at one point made or gave the same type of remark, joke, or whatever form of harassment you are accusing them of, then it negates your claim. By you having used the same behavior, it then makes your claim of 'unwelcome conduct' unusable.

You should not have to suffer any form of harassment in your workplace. Laws protect your right to work in a non-violent environment and help you put a stop to sexual harassment in the workplace.

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