Sexual Harassment 101: Know Your Rights

By definition, sexual harassment is harassment in a workplace or other professional or social situation involving making unwanted sexual advances. This includes requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Though the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t serious, harassment is illegal when it is happening so often or severely that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment.

It can happen to anyone. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a manager from another department, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee, such as a client or customer.

Is It Harassment?


It’s essential to know how to determine whether or not you or another employee are being sexually harassed. To decide whether a behavior is acceptable, questionable, or prohibited, follow this guide:


  • Joe holds the door for others
  • Mary tells Jack in a meeting he did a great job on last week’s reports.
  • A customer compliments Sue’s new haircut.


  • Joe touches the back of a co-worker when he holds the door open.
  • Mary whispers into Jack’s ear he did a great job on last week’s reports.
  • A customer feels Sue’s hair for a few seconds as he compliments her haircut.



  • Joe comments about women being weak as he holds the door for female co-workers.
  • Mary makes inappropriate sexual advances toward Jack.
  • A customer tries to kiss Sue while touching her hair.

Take These Actions

If you are sexually harassed, you can take a few steps to resolve the issue.

Step 1: Speak Up

The first step in resolving sexual harassment is to confront the offender. This usually stops the behavior. If you think you can’t speak to the offender directly, send them a written message telling them their behavior offends you, and you will go to management if it continues.

Step 2: Know Your Rights

The US Supreme Court ruling on sexual harassment states three conditions must be met for acts or behaviors to be considered sexual harassment:

  • there must be sexual attention;
  • the attention must be unwanted from the person who is subjected to the sexual attention; and
  • the attention must be perceived as troublesome.

Sexual harassment is illegal. Most employers have workplace policies to protect employees from this sort of behavior. Often, workplaces offer hotlines to the human resources department to report incidents. As an employee, you can report any actions that make you uncomfortable without repercussions. Keep all evidence and your response if the offender sends you emails or texts.

It’s also important to note that your employer doesn’t have to fire the offender.

Your employer may discipline or suspend the harasser, move them to a different department or location, make them complete sexual harassment training, or terminate them.

Step 3: You’re Not Alone

According to Zippia‘s extensive research:

  • Between 54-81% of women report experiencing sexual harassment at work.
  • Despite this prevalence,  58-72% of victims don’t report workplace sexual harassment.
  • Workplace sexual harassment costs companies $2.6 billion in lost productivity and $0.9 billion in other costs.

Ultimately, it’s your employer’s responsibility to create a sense of workplace safety.

“In the majority of cases when the Sexual Harassment complaint is informally or formally brought to the company’s attention, the offensive actions have already taken place several times, and it is NOT the first time that the harassment has occurred. Most victims usually do NOT come forward after the first offense unless it is a significant and severe violation!” states Timothy Dimoff, President of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services

About SACS Consulting and Investigative Services

We understand your rights and how they apply to your place of work. Call us today at (330) 225-1101 to ask about our sexual harassment prevention training to protect yourself and your organization