Many workplaces have employees who have flirty, fun relationships with each other. Although a professional might counsel people not to engage in this behavior just to stay on the safe side, as long as everybody consents, this behavior may not be a problem.
But for some, a teasing or light-hearted workplace attitude toward sexual jokes, innuendo, or flirting may be a problem because it opens them up to subtle sexual harassment. Without obvious behaviors that are easy to identify as sexual harassment, victims can struggle to put their finger on why certain behaviors make them uncomfortable. They may feel pressure from their colleagues to “lighten up” or “not make a big deal out of it.” Unfortunately, this can make things worse and eventually lead to the kind of hostile or offensive work environment that the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits. If you suspect you are the target of sexual harassment, read on to learn about subtle ways sexual harassment may appear, and then learn how you can take action by contacting an Illinois sexual harassment lawyer.
Commenting on Physical Appearance
Employees are usually together for around 40 hours a week; they see each others’ new clothes, haircuts, and weight gains or losses. Many employees pay friendly compliments to each other, but the line between a compliment and a sexually harassing statement can be hard to define. If someone makes a compliment that is sexual in nature, feels inappropriate, or makes you feel objectified or intimidated, it may be sexual harassment – especially if such comments are ongoing.
Non-Sexual Physical Harassment
Not all physical behavior has to be overtly sexual to rise to the level of sexual harassment. While touching someone’s private areas is clearly not appropriate, what about rubbing someone’s shoulder? Touching someone’s body by appearing to “accidentally” brush past them? Blocking someone from leaving a confined area? Any of these may be done in such a way that they appear unintentional, yet leave the target of such behaviors feeling frightened or even threatened.
Making Light of Objections to Inappropriate Behaviors
As noted earlier, sometimes employees who engage in joking or flirtatious behavior will respond to complaints by brushing off concerns or encouraging the complainant to just “play along” or “chill out.” Whether the employee making the jokes or another bystander does this, when complaints about objectionable behavior are ignored or dismissed, the workplace can quickly become highly unpleasant.
Contact a DuPage County Sexual Harassment Attorney
If you are not sure whether the behavior you are dealing with rises to the level of ongoing sexual harassment, contact a Wheaton, IL sexual harassment attorney with MKFM Law. You may be surprised to learn that you do not have to tolerate even subtle behaviors that make you uncomfortable. If your employer does not protect you from the behavior, you may be entitled to bring legal action against them. Call 630-665-7300 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to learn more about your options.