Sexual Harassment: How You May Be Affected

Sexual harassment is when a coworker says or does something sexual that makes you uncomfortable. Sexual harassment denies coworkers the mutual respect needed for a healthy workplace. If you’re the victim of sexual harassment, you may feel violated or intimidated. You may also be afraid to speak out because of how it might affect your job or career.

Woman looking at books on desk with a confused worried look. Someone next to her has their hand on her shoulder.

Personal dignity

Is the victim at fault? No. But even so, the victim’s self-worth may be shaken. Many people try to avoid future incidents by staying away from the harasser or changing the way they dress. If the harassment doesn’t stop, victims may become anxious, fearful, angry, or depressed. These emotions can lead to other health problems.

Job performance

Victims of sexual harassment tend to be less focused at work. They may also be less productive. They may be late to work more often. They may even skip work and be absent. Other employees are also affected. Those who witness or hear about the harassment may feel angry or confused. Conflict between employees may increase.

Recognizing sexual harassment

You may not be sure if you are being sexually harassed by another employee. It depends on how that person’s actions make you feel. Do their actions make you uncomfortable? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is a coworker making sexual jokes? Does this person talk about sexual situations when he or she is with me?

  • Does my coworker ask me about my sex life?

  • Does my coworker force his or her attentions on me? For instance, does this person keep asking me to go on a date?

  • Does a coworker have cartoons, photos, or other things in his or her workspace that might be viewed as sexually offensive?

  • Does my coworker invade my personal space? For instance, does this person stand too close or touch me when talking?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing sexual harassment.