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Sexual harassment is when a coworker says or does something sexual that makes you uncomfortable. Sexual harassment denies coworkers the mutual respect needed for a healthy workplace. If you’re the victim of sexual harassment, you may feel violated or intimidated. You may also be afraid to speak out because of how it might affect your job or career.
Is the victim at fault? No. But even so, the victim’s self-worth may be shaken. Many victims try to avoid future incidents by staying away from the harasser or changing the way they dress. If the harassment doesn’t stop, victims may become anxious, fearful, angry, or depressed. These emotions can lead to other health problems.
Victims of sexual harassment tend to be less focused at work. They may also be less productive. They may be late to work more often. They may even skip work and be absent. Other employees are also affected. Those who witness or hear about the harassment may feel angry or confused. Conflict between employees may increase.
The impact of your behavior on others determines whether or not it is sexual harassment. You may not always know whether you’re harassing another employee. It depends on how that person views your actions. With this in mind, ask yourself these questions:
Do I make sexual jokes? Do I talk about sexual situations when others may hear me?
Do I ask my coworkers about their sex lives?
Do I force my attentions on a coworker? For instance, have I asked a coworker to go on a date with me many times?
Do I have cartoons, photos, or other things in my workspace that might be viewed as sexually offensive?
Do I invade other people’s space? For instance, do I stand too close or touch them when I’m talking to them?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may need to change your behavior. As a general rule, if a behavior might be unacceptable in the workplace, don’t do it.