7 Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

sexual harassment examples

Unwelcome sexual conduct at work can range from inappropriate remarks to outright sexual battery. While behaviors like flirting or friendliness are usually harmless, they can cross a line when they become unwelcome, offensive, and disruptive.

Understanding different examples can help identify when unacceptable boundaries are being crossed. During our years advising harassment victims, we’ve aided countless employees in knowing their rights when facing everything from verbally demeaning language to physical transgressions.

Let’s walk through seven common categories of prohibited sexual harassment behaviors.

Verbal Sexual Harassment

Words carry power. Demeaning or objectifying comments about gender, sexist slurs, and sexual jokes can make any reasonable person feel distressed and unsafe at work.

  1. Sexist or Sexual Comments

    A common example of sexual harassment is vulgar or sexist statements from male supervisors or colleagues to female subordinates or co-workers. Comments like, “Go make me a sandwich” or, “The office got prettier today,” could alienate women by perpetuating gender stereotypes and looking at a woman only for her appearance.

    Unwelcome references to body parts or speculations about sexual activity could also violate the law. Under Florida law, such inappropriate conduct crosses the lines into unlawful workplace sexual harassment when it is unwelcome, severe or pervasive, and impacts an employee’s terms or conditions of employment.

  2. Sexual Jokes or Innuendos

    Predatory jokes aimed at gender or sexuality could make someone feel uncomfortable. And “just kidding” excuses often don’t make up for the harm done.

    For example, a supervisor constantly making crude jokes can create a hostile environment for subordinates. Employees should not feel obligated to directly confront the harasser in these situations. There may be other options, like filing an HR complaint, reporting the incident to a complaint hotline, or talking to an employment lawyer about potential legal remedies. Every unwanted situation deserves proper investigation and follow-up action aimed at stopping the harmful behavior.

    Physical Sexual Harassment

    While violence demands immediate actions like police reports, victims shouldn’t downplay inappropriate physical contact either. Grabbing, groping, blocking paths, or persistent requests for dates all warrant holding offenders accountable through careful documentation and intervention.

  3. Touching and Groping

    Unwanted intimate touching or groping could constitute sexual harassment. Employers have an obligation to provide a workplace that is free from discrimination or harassment of any kind. Employers need to protect workers from inappropriate physical contact or advances, whether coming from customers, coworkers, contractors, or other parties.

    If anyone attempts non-consensual inappropriate touching or groping on the job, properly documenting and reporting remains crucial. Doing so creates a record to potentially justify training, removal of the offender, and further prevention efforts to ensure everyone’s basic safety at work.

  4. Sexual Battery and Coercion

    Unfortunately, predators sometimes leverage power dynamics and privacy in the workplace to sexually batter or harass staff. For example, some have reported being cornered in isolated areas or locked rooms and then groped, coerced, or threatened when trying to resist unwanted advances.

    Situations that escalate to attempted rape or direct violence generally warrant police intervention along with organizational accountability. All employers have a duty to keep staff safe from harm. If assaulted at work, know that you have options for justice and do not have to suffer in silence.

    Visual Sexual Harassment

    Pictures and imagery can create a hostile work environment under the law. Two examples of “visual sexual harassment” may include displays of pornography or explicit sexual gestures.

  5. Displaying Explicit Material

    Sexually explicit imagery permeates society, yet visibly sharing pornographic content at work damages professionalism, respect, and could create discomfort. Even things like sexually suggestive computer wallpapers and calendars can constitute visual sexual harassment if displayed against coworkers’ wishes and impact the employee’s terms or conditions of employment.

    Employers have a duty to prevent such unprofessional (and potentially unlawful) material from being displayed in the workplace. No one should have to be exposed to things that degrade their dignity, make them uncomfortable, or interfere with their ability to perform their job.

  6. Sexual Gestures and Staring

    Lingering or leering gazes alone can make victims feel uncomfortable. When combined with obscene gestures, this visual sexual harassment can make things that much more uncomfortable. If a coworker engages in offensive staring or gestures, you should immediately report it to the employer to start you on the path to correcting the behavior.

  7. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

    Quid pro quo is a Latin term that means “something for something” and describes perhaps the most commonly known type of sexual harassment. When owners or superiors manipulate access to advancement, benefits, or security within an organization to extort sexual activity from dependents, they may be violating the law. If you are the victim of “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, you should immediately report it to the employer, and if you suffer any form of retaliation for reporting the conduct, you should contact the attorneys at BT Law Group.

Taking Action Against Workplace Sexual Harassment

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, know that you have rights. At BT Law Group, our experienced attorneys, Jason Berkowitz and Anisley Tarragona, are dedicated to fighting for employees who have faced this unacceptable behavior.

With their unique background and nearly 30 years of combined experience, Jason and Anisley provide superior representation to clients throughout Florida and nationwide. We understand the sensitive nature of these cases and offer a supportive, confidential environment.

Don’t suffer in silence. Contact BT Law Group today for a consultation, and let us help you seek justice.

Author Bio

BT Law Group is an employment law firm in Miami, FL, founded by attorneys Jason D. Berkowitz and Anisley Tarragona. With a wealth of experience in various legal areas, they represent clients in various legal matters, including discrimination, unpaid wages, wrongful termination, management counseling, and other cases.

Since receiving their Juris Doctorates from the University of Miami School of Law, they have received numerous accolades for their accomplishments, including being selected to Rising Stars by Super Lawyers. Jason was also selected to The 2021 Best Lawyers in South Florida.

State Bar Association | Linkedin | Facebook | Google