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Is there such a thing as same-sex sexual harassment?

It everywhere -- on television, in the movies, on the internet. We think we know what sexual harassment is: when a man comes on to a woman at work in a way that clearly indicates he expects or wants sexual favors.

But does it sometimes look different? Can sexual harassment be comments, cartoons, articles or remarks? Does it only happen between opposite sex co-workers or can same-sex sexual harassment occur?

Federal law and sexual harassment

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision.”

What are some of the signs of a hostile or offensive work environment? Put simply, it means being unable to do your job due because of treatment you are receiving. What are some of the indications of sexual harassment that are not are between both sexes and that can create a hostile environment? They are:

  • Sexual jokes or cartoons
  • Sexual comments (i.e. your co-worker frequently makes explicit comments to you about another co-worker whom they find attractive.)
  • Pejorative, negative or sexual comments about men or women in general
  • Discussion about sex-life

What can be done?

No one wants to tolerate a hostile work environment. Working productively and free of harassment is essential to our mental and physical well-being. In the event that you experience concerns, consult an employment law attorney.

Not every instance of a comment or suggestion constitutes harassment. But, an attorney experienced in this area will guide you and offer feedback and direction, protecting you and your future.

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