Sexual harassment has always been a gray area. What kind of behavior falls in that category, and what does not? The United Nations, in the document What is Sexual Harassment, expounds on your typical definition of sexual harassment:
Unwelcome Behavior is the critical word. Unwelcome does not mean “involuntary.” A victim may consent or agree to certain conduct and actively participate in it even though it is offensive and objectionable. Therefore, sexual conduct is unwelcome whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome. Whether the person in fact welcomed a request for a date, sex-oriented comment, or joke depends on all the circumstances.
So without further adieu, below are 5 signs that you are being sexually harassed in the workplace.
1. He makes it known that he hates it when you don’t smile.
It shouldn’t matter what he prefers, and you have no obligation to give him the pleasure of seeing your pearly whites. Even if he doesn’t explicitly ask you to “smile, baby,” any pressure or expectation of doing such constitutes harassment.
2. He asks you on dates, as a “joke.”
Repeated pressure to “hang out” or to “go grab dinner” after you’ve already said no is harassment. If you did agree once before but decided that he wasn’t for you, he should be able to respect your decision and not continue to pursue you.
3. He justifies his behavior and actions by saying, “I know you want to.”
This is a form of manipulation. If you don’t feel a certain way, but he insists that you feel otherwise because of your actions x, y and z, then that is the same as leading you to feel something you never originally felt or wanted. If he has to convince you or persuade you to do something, especially if you have qualms or reservations in doing so, then that constitutes harassment.
4. He buys you gifts.
Anything he wouldn’t normally give to someone else means that he is pursuing you. Everyone loves attention (who doesn’t like free gifts?) but if this attention is unwanted because of the person who is giving it, not only should you decline the gift, but he should also stop buying them.
5. He drops sexual innuendos and jokes into your work conversations.
Any reference to your body or any sexual act is unprofessional and should not be tolerated. You should be able to have intellectual, productive conversations about work without fear of unwanted comments about your sexual life. If you feel uncomfortable in any way whatsoever, you have every right to say something.