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Sexual material in the workplace could be harassment

Many people are confused as to where the line is drawn when it comes to sexual harassment. The most common and recognized form of sexual harassment is when a person in a position of power within the workplace asks another employee of a lower position to perform a sexual favor in return for a work-related reward. This might be a promotion or a pay rise in return for sexual activity of some sort. This is always completely prohibited in the workplace.

However, there are other types of sexual harassment that are less clear-cut. These types of sexual harassment in the workplace are broadly known as creating a "hostile environment". Therefore, any type of sexual reference or behavior that can be proven to create a hostile environment in the workplace can constitute sexual harassment. The following are some less common but valid examples of these.

Sexual material in the workplace

If a colleague has sexually explicit material in the workplace and is using it overtly or to intimidate others, then it can be classed as sexual harassment. This could, for example, a situation where an employee watches pornographic content in the office. This could be used to make others feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, and should never be tolerated. Similarly, leaving sexual material and objects on a desk in an obvious way can also create a hostile environment in the workplace.

If you are suffering at work because of another employee's inappropriate behavior, it is important to remember that even subtle behavior can be classed as harassment. Consider whether a hostile environment is being creating when deciding whether to pursue the incident.

Source: LA Times, "How to report workplace sexual harassment," accessed Jan. 04, 2018

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