How to Handle Sexual Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace

Although workplace environments differ dramatically depending on which industry people are employed in, discrimination and harassment exists across them all. Sexual harassment in particular is especially common. That term is used to describe a general set of behaviors that employers and co-employees engage in that isolates or abuses another person. Sexual Discrimination occurs when people are judged or treated differently because of their gender or sexual orientation. Both harassment and discrimination can have a major effect on workers and their ability to contribute to the workplace, and could lead to an overall negative work environment for everyone.

Identifying sexual harassment

While one person may find a gesture, act or comment harassing, another person may find it funny, appropriate or otherwise overlook the significance of the remark. The truth is, any type of unwelcome comments, advances or physical conduct can be considered sexual harassment. Harassment invades another person’s comfort and personal space. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment may involve several factors. These include the following:

  • The harassment is unwelcome and unwanted by the victim.
  • Harassment is gender blind, and can be caused by both women and men. Women and abuse other women or men, and men can harass other men or women.
  • Harassment can come from another employee, a supervisor or someone who is not employed by the company. For example, the postal worker that delivers the mail each day may be the harasser.
  • People may be victimized by verbal sexual harassment even if the comment is not directed towards them. For example, a dirty remark or comment can affect a group of people.

Sexual harassment can vary in different situations. It may be up to the victim, supervisor or even a judge to determine whether the act is inappropriate. When evaluating a sexual harassment case, the EEOC will look at the act itself, as well as the circumstances and context surrounding the incident.


Sexual discrimination occurs when an employer makes a decision or treats someone differently because of an employee’s gender or sexual identity. Discrimination can also occur when an employer retaliates against an employee who does not submit to sexual advances. These practices are illegal, as everyone has the right to be treated fairly and work in a positive work environment.

Looking after your rights

If you have been victimized by an employer or co-worker, you may not know where to turn. You may feel embarrassed, scared and unsure of what will happen next. An attorney who has a firm knowledge of employment law may be critical to your case. Lawyers may help by investigating the details of the case and will protect your rights in the workplace.