To constitute sexual harassment, the conduct must be unwelcome. Voluntary dating, touching or joking is not considered harassment if the parties involved welcome the behavior. However, conduct becomes unwelcome when the target finds the unwanted conduct offensive. Some behavior is so vulgar that the action itself indicates that it is unwelcome. However, in most cases, the worker’s reaction to the behavior indicates whether it is welcome.
Sexual harassment victims must inform their harassers that their behavior is unwelcome. This is particularly important because to constitute sexual harassment and build a strong case, the harasser must be aware that their conduct is unwelcome.
If you have been subjected to unwelcome sexual advances at work, you may be a victim of sexual harassment. To speak with a sexual harassment attorney about your rights, fill out our free case review form.
When a worker tells the alleged harasser that their conduct is unwelcome, it becomes difficult for the perpetrator to justify their actions. For instance, the harasser cannot state that the target “meant yes” when he or she clearly said “no.” At the very least, employees who wish not to talk to their harassers can shake their head and walk away when propositioned.
Sexual harassment cases become complicated when the potential victim fails to communicate clearly. This often happens because the victim is indecisive or fears that they will be perceived as impolite. For instance, a woman who is asked out by her boss may reply that she is busy, when in actuality she has no intention of dating him. The advance is not openly offensive and the response does not imply that the proposal was unwelcome.
Employees engaged in sexual relationships may have difficulty expressing that continued advances are unwelcome. Because employees can end these relationships without fear of retaliation, any future advances may become unwelcome. However, because the employees were previously engaged in a sexual relationship, the individual who ended the relationship must clearly inform the other party that future advances are unwelcome.
How to Avoid the Perception that Sexual Advances are Welcomed
If you are being sexually harassed at work, the following actions are not advisable if you wish to pursue a claim:
- Inviting the potential harasser on a date
- Flirting with the potential harasser
- Wearing revealing clothing around the alleged harasser
- Speaking provocatively around the potential harasser
- Engaging in sexual acts in the workplace
To summarize, if you are receiving sexual advances in the workplace, you should make your discontent well-known. Keep in mind that some harassers may have difficulty assessing your reaction. To be clear, inform the harasser that the behavior is unwanted and must stop.
If you continue to experience sexual harassment in the workplace, a sexual harassment attorney can help you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After doing so, you may be able to participate in a sexual harassment lawsuit. To have your claim reviewed today, fill out our free case evaluation form.