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Does sexual harassment have to happen in the office?

Contrary to popular belief, sexual harassment doesn’t have to occur in the office. It can happen in any setting where individuals interact, such as schools, public places, online platforms or social events. You can classify behavior as sexual harassment when it involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work or learning environment.

It is important to recognize that sexual harassment is a serious violation of your work-related rights and can cause significant emotional and psychological harm to you if left unchecked over an extended period. If you suspect you’re being sexually harassed outside work by a co-worker, it’s important to identify the behavior in question and to acknowledge it so that you can make informed decisions about your options.

Unwanted attention

If a work colleague repeatedly tries to get your attention outside the workplace in a way that makes you uncomfortable, this could be a sign of sexual harassment. This could include repeated phone calls, emails or text messages. Such behavior can be especially overwhelming if the offending individual is your superior at work.

Inappropriate comments or jokes

There is nothing wrong with sharing jokes with work colleagues when you leave the office. Unfortunately, sexually harassing comments can easily be dismissed as unserious jokes, even though they cause the recipient harm. If you’ve experienced sexual harassment disguised as banter outside work, you might want to report the incidents to HR.

Unconsented physical contact

Any form of touch that makes you uncomfortable can be classified as sexual harassment. For instance, you may notice a pattern of work colleagues forcing hugs when you’re at work functions. While you might desire cordial relationships with your co-workers, you shouldn’t let inappropriate touching go unreported. Your company should have policies surrounding touch in and outside the workplace that help ensure safety, inclusivity and respect for all.

Sexual harassment is a serious issue that can happen anywhere, not just in the workplace. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand how to recognize and report sexual harassment outside of work to help protect yourself and others from potential harm. Seeking legal guidance is often a good place to start.