There is so much inaccurate information floating around about sexual harassment that many people truly do not understand what constitutes sexual harassment. Some people might think that just a single off-handed joke constitutes harassment, while others might think that their difficult work situation doesn’t constitute harassment because the people abusing them are the same gender as they are.

The better you understand how sexual harassment looks and how it affects workers, the easier it will be for you to determine whether what you have experienced at your job is harassment or not. If it is sexual harassment, reporting it to your employer and then taking additional steps may be the only way to protect your rights as a worker.

Sexual harassment can involve abuse of power and request for sexual favors

When a manager calls someone into their office for the quarterly review and then offers to improve someone’s score if that person engages in sexual activity or goes on a date with them, that manager has just committed quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Quid pro quo is a Latin term that translates to “this for that.” Essentially, someone with a position of authority uses that authority to try to manipulate someone else in a sexual manner. Conversely, instead of offering a reward, there can be implied punishment if the victim does not comply with the demands of the harasser.

Sexual harassment also includes hostile work environments

Someone does not have to be sexually attracted to you in order to engage in sexual harassment. They merely have to abuse you or humiliate you because of your gender or perceived sexuality.

For example, a female co-worker angry about how much another woman on the job receives attention from their male co-workers might start making jokes at the other woman’s expense and spreading rumors about her sexual habits. The victim here experiences a hostile work environment, even if the perpetrator has no sexual interest in them.

It’s also possible for multiple people of one gender to create a work environment that is incredibly hostile toward a minority of workers of the opposite gender. If someone threatens your job, tries to derail your career advancement or makes going to work a nightmare because of your gender, their behavior could constitute sexual harassment. If it’s impacting your ability to work, you owe it to yourself to stand up to the mistreatment you’ve experienced.