One of the reasons why sexual harassment gets so far out of hand is that victims dismiss the early warning signs of the behavior as irrelevant. If victims can recognize these early signs and respond to them proactively — before they get worse — many difficult circumstances and lawsuits could be avoided.
Whether you’re male or female, here are three things every employee should watch out for:
Sexual banter and sexual behavior
Some workplaces are “toxic environments” full of sexualized banter that makes people feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you’re the only one in the whole office who doesn’t like this kind of foul-mouthed behavior; it doesn’t matter. You have a right to ask for it to stop before you become the butt of everyone’s sexist jokes.
Bribery and coercion
It could start as seemingly innocent suggestions of a flirtation nature. Perhaps a request from your boss that you scratch his or her back. Maybe you don’t want to comply because it makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s important to listen to this feeling and refuse. If you do comply, the request could become more sexual in nature — and pretty soon, you could find yourself being coerced, bribed or threatened into performing a sexual act.
Your boss might make a habit of standing closer to you than feels comfortable. If you don’t immediately reclaim your space, and address the behavior by asking for more space, it could result in worsened harassment that takes the form of physical touching.
Stay vigilant and address the subtle signs of sexual harassment at work as soon as you notice them. In many cases, this will prevent the harassment from getting worse. However, you may not always succeed, in which case legal action could be the only way to protect yourself.