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Understanding same-sex sexual harassment in the workplace

On Behalf of | Nov 12, 2021 | Employment Law |

The stereotype of an older, male boss chasing a young, female secretary around a desk probably started for a reason. After all, there was a time when sexual harassment in the workplace was something that most women just expected.

Times have changed. With them, so have the expectations about improprieties in the workplace. Not only is opposite-gender sexual harassment no longer tolerated (nor legal), but same-sex sexual harassment is also something that isn’t accepted.

What does same-sex sexual harassment look like?

Any sexually based harassment is harassment, regardless of the gender of the employees involved. To give you an idea of what same-sex sexual harassment could mean, consider these examples:

  • You’re female, and your female manager tells you that you need to “fix yourself up” and “wear something nice” for a visit with an important client, clearly implying that you need to be sexually suggestive and use your sexual attractiveness to make a deal.
  • You’re male and asexual. Your male co-workers are in the habit of discussing their sex lives at work. After a while, they notice that you don’t join in and start to make jokes at your expense about your lack of sexual experience.
  • You’re female but you dress in a very masculine fashion. Your female boss tells you that your looks are “confusing” to customers and co-workers and that you “must” wear make-up or other gender-coded attire to make others more comfortable.
  • You’re male and gay. Your boss knows this and suggests that you “take one for the team” and have sexual relations with an important (gay) client to get some major concessions from them.

Unfortunately, none of these scenarios are far-fetched. They may play out more subtly (or they may not), but they happen. If something like this happens to you, learn more about your right to a safe, harassment-free workplace and what you can do to fight back.