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Identifying sexual harassment in the workplace

The last several months have seen a sudden and surprising sea change in the public conversation surrounding sexual harassment in many different work environments and professional settings. Understandably, this has lead to great confusion for many individuals who may believe that they too experience sexual harassment in the workplace but don't know how to address it correctly. Still others may remain unclear on whether or not some particular behavior actually counts as legally actionable sexual harassment or is merely a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of other behavior.

These issues are remarkably complicated and deserve sober judgment, especially in light of ongoing revelations of just how many individuals experience sexual harassment in the workplace across every sector of public and private employment.

Conduct that qualifies as sexual harassment under the current laws can arise in many forms. This conduct must be both offensive and unwelcome in the eyes of the victim. This may seem obvious, but a person accused of sexual harassment may claim that the victim previously consented to the behavior, which can complicate matters.

In most cases, sexual harassment occurs in tandem with some position of power over the victim, such as a supervisor or other superior in the workplace. However, many instances of sexual harassment occur between peers, or some cases may come from an individual under the authority of the victim.

It is also important to remember that both men and women can experience sexual harassment, and this does not even address the struggles that those who do not identify with traditional genders may face. Some parties may claim, for instance, that men cannot suffer sexual harassment in the workplace. Legally speaking, this is not true.

If you believe that you suffer sexual harassment in the workplace, it is wise to consult with an attorney. You have an opportunity to create a safer workplace for yourself and many others, and it is important to create a strong strategy as you fight for justice.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is Sexual Harassment?," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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