Home > Bullying > Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual Harassment at Work

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment At

The law makes it clear that sexual harassment is definitely not acceptable. Whilst there is no strict definition as to what constitutes sexual harassment, the Sex Discrimination Act gives you the legal right not to be sexually harassed at work and it is also unlawful to treat women (or men) less favourably because of their sex.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment constitutes any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. It's not about fun or friendship but about the abuse of power. It is also worth bearing in mind that many people respond to situations in different ways. What may seem like an innocent action or remark to one person may be deemed offensive by another and the law sides with the 'victim' not the 'perpetrator'. Since there is no single definition, the test is how the recipient feels about the behaviour. Whilst men can also be subject to sexual harassment, the vast majority of cases have been by women against men. It is estimated that 50% of women in employment are, or have been, subject to sexual harassment of some form or other. It doesn't just happen to women who work in large offices or those who work within a predominantly male working environment; it can happen to people in any occupation, to any age group and from every community.

It can take place in many forms which can broadly be categorised in 3 groups:

Verbal

  • Comments about appearance, body or clothes
  • Indecent remarks
  • Questions or comments about your sex life
  • Requests for sexual favours
  • Sexual demands made by someone of the opposite sex, or even your own sex
  • Promises or threats concerning a person's employment conditions in return for sexual favours

Non-Verbal
  • Looking or staring at a person's body
  • Display of sexually explicit material such as calendars, pin ups or magazines

Physical
  • Physically touching, pinching, hugging, caressing, kissing
  • Sexual assault
  • Rape

What Can I do About Sexual Harassment?

In the first instance, you should try to confront the harasser. It may be that their perception of harassment is not the same as yours and they didn't realise you found their behaviour offensive. When you confront them you should:
  • Speak clearly and slowly, maintaining direct eye contact
  • Describe the behaviour, its effects on you and that you want it to stop
  • Ignore any attempts to trivialise or dismiss what you have to say
  • Don't smile or apologise. This will undermine your complaint
  • When you have finished what you want to say, walk away - the less you say, the more powerful you will be

However, you do need to speak up straight away. It may be that you choose a confidante, a colleague or union representative to give you moral support. They could also act as a witness to any incidents of improper behaviour.

If you feel you can't confront the harasser face to face, you might prefer to write to them to explain that their behaviour is making you feel uncomfortable and that you want it to stop. Keep a copy of the letter and let them know that if their behaviour persists, you will take the matter further.

Keep a Diary

Note down all the behaviour that offends you, the dates, times and location where the behaviour took place and if there were any other people present, keep a record of their names. This will help you if you need to make an official complaint.

What if it Continues?

Once you've confronted the perpetrator, if the behaviour continues you need to tell your employer. Many employers have a procedure - follow it. Your employer should investigate your complaint and deal with it. You have the right to take someone with you to any meetings about your complaint. They can back you up if necessary. Once again, keep a written record of everything that happens.

When and Why Should I Take my Case to a Tribunal?

Employment Tribunals are external committees who assess whether employers have acted unlawfully and seek to resolve the problem. You should go to a tribunal if:
  • The harassment continues after you've told the perpetrator to stop and you've reported it to your employer
  • The harasser owns the company and there's no-one else to complain to
  • If you are not happy with the way the investigation was handled and/or you are not satisfied with the outcome

You MUST File Your Complaint Within 3 Months of The Incident Taking Place.

The Employment Tribunals Commission and your local Citizen's Advice Bureau can offer you excellent guidance and advice about this type of complaint.

Sexual harassment at work threatens your confidence and self-esteem. It can stop you working effectively, undermines your dignity and it can affect your health and happiness.

Nobody should be subjected to it. Fortunately, a variety of laws exist to protect you.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
My male colleague keeps making comments about my bottom and how it looks on my clothes. He asks me about how many people I've had sex with and if I go home at lunch for sex. Today he made comments when I was eating a banana and asked me if I was wet and going to have sex when I get home. I've only been in my job 4 months and don't know what to do. Today was the first time he said it in front of An apprentice that has just started work, he changed the subject as he knew I was embarrassed. I don't feel about to say anything to him. Afterwards he said you know I'm only joking. This happens often and I hate when we are in the office alone l.
Sez - 20-Feb-17 @ 6:50 PM
Manda68 - Your Question:
I have had an issue with a colleague texting me outside the work place causing problems in my personal relationship. I spoke to my manager regarding this and nothing has been done. Since then he has asked me for a kiss in front of the young people we support and even asked if I was pregnant due to putting on weight. If he is off work for a period of time he comes back and says in front of everyone how much he has missed me. The latest comment off him was a week ago where once again in front of the young people he asked if I would like to go to his and check his bedroom out. Due to my partner at the time being very jealous of this man and work not acting on what I've told them it resulted in my relationship ending due to domestic violence all because my partner thinks I was having an affair with the bloke. I'm still having to work with him whilst dealing with everything with my ex. I'm considering leaving my job as my boss has not addressed this issue with him. I don't know what to do anymore and hate going to work now

Our Response:
If you are unhappy with your manager's attempts to resolve the matter, you can invoke your company's formal grievance procedure (which all companies must have by law). As a last resort, sexual harassment claims can be referred to an Employment Tribunal. You only have 3 months minus 1 day from when the last harassment occurred to refer the matter to the Tribunal though so it may be that you have to make a decision about a Tribunal case before your company's grievance procedure has completed. Try speaking to Citizens Advice Bureau or your trade union for free guidance on this process.
SafeWorkers - 14-Feb-17 @ 9:58 AM
I have had an issue with a colleague texting me outside the work place causing problems in my personal relationship . I spoke to my manager regarding this and nothing has been done . Since then he has asked me for a kiss in front of the young people we support and even asked if I was pregnant due to putting on weight . If he is off work for a period of time he comes back and says in front of everyone how much he has missed me . The latest comment off him was a week ago where once again in front of the young people he asked if I would like to go to his and check his bedroom out . Due to my partner at the time being very jealous of this man and work not acting on what I've told them it resulted in my relationship ending due to domestic violence all because my partner thinks I was having an affair with the bloke . I'm still having to work with him whilst dealing with everything with my ex . I'm considering leaving my job as my boss has not addressed this issue with him . I don't know what to do anymore and hate going to work now
Manda68 - 12-Feb-17 @ 4:46 PM
IN LEEDS THEY LOCK UP PWOPLE FOE NOT WORKING FULL TIME. THEY ALSO USE MENWITH HILL V2K OR GANG STALKING ON RESIDENTS TO FORCE THEM TO LOOSE THEIR JOBS AND LIFE
keanu - 11-Feb-17 @ 4:51 AM
Gigi - Your Question:
My Niece had a picture of her breast taken when she was at work bent over because she didnt have her work shirt on because her 2 yr old vomitted on it when she dropped her off at daycare so instead of her being late for work she put on a regular top. Cleavage was covered. What should she do? Know one will tell her who took the picture either.

Our Response:
Was the picture published somewhere? Sorry you've not given enough information here.
SafeWorkers - 7-Feb-17 @ 11:39 AM
My Niece had a picture of her breast taken when she was at work bent over because she didnt have her work shirt on because her 2 yr old vomitted on it when she dropped her off at daycare so instead of her being late for work she put on a regular top. Cleavage was covered. What should she do? Know one will tell her who took the picture either.
Gigi - 6-Feb-17 @ 12:36 AM
I was on a works night out and what happened was that a male who I work with came on to me and his bits touched my face as he pushed my head down towards his crotch. I wasn't going to say anything, but my friend made me. Now it is going to court and I was wondering if he wins the case (as there are about 30 statements), could I lose my job? I've spoken to the police and the CPS and they are not willing to drop the case, and I'm a t a loss as what to do, as I want it to go no further, as I am ok, it's just stressful as we both still work together, despite the outcome and it being in court in the next month.
jessicaleigh - 26-Jan-17 @ 6:49 PM
If you've been sleeping with a co worker, and you are aware that he has taken a photo of you. But has taken a video without you knowing and shows it around the workplace is there anything you can do about it or will it just make matters worse for myself?
??? - 13-Jan-17 @ 9:19 AM
Bub - Your Question:
Hiya I'm nearly 17 and my boss is in his 30s and he hugs me from behind hugs me normally and always finds a way to touch me when I've been walking up stairs he has put his hands on my waist, called me beautiful and that. Once he has told me he loves me randomly but he has a wife and kids, is he just being friendly or is this flirting and sexual harassment

Our Response:
If you're not comfortable with it, then it constitutes sexual harassment. Report this to someone in charge follow your employer's complaint guidelines.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jan-17 @ 12:19 PM
Hiya I'm nearly 17 and my boss is in his 30s and he hugs me from behind hugs me normally and always finds a way to touch me when I've been walking up stairs he has put his hands on my waist, called me beautiful and that. Once he has told me he loves me randomly but he has a wife and kids, is he just being friendly or is this flirting and sexual harassment
Bub - 4-Jan-17 @ 4:59 PM
I was fired from my job where i've spent 2 years,my assistant manager decided to accuse me of sexual harrassment(because there was any other reason) and i've never had a single writen warning during the all imvestigation,i was fired in a matter of minutes and my employer told me i was going to be given good references for other jobs(it must be a joke) at the end i've lost my job where i was well succed,i've lost my girlfriend because she didnt believe i was innocent and to make it worst i fear from now on to work with females because i dont know who else gonna accused of what,plus i was fired before christmas(good reason to celebrate it,alone and unemployed)
Pedro - 31-Dec-16 @ 1:56 PM
My best friend whom I work with as well was violently sexual assaulted at our office Xmas party by a manager that works at a different site (nvever met him before). It could of been rape if it wasn't interrupted by a member of the public and my friend believes he would of raped her if the member of the public didn't interrupt him. It took place at the managers home. The report was made to the police and to higher management at work, the police are treating it very seriously and they are two witnesses. The higher manager has suspended him but basically is saying it's not a work matter as it happened outside of work and we should continued as normal because they don't actually work together. The police mentioned to me as I was there for support that he has police record. Which makes me think it's of the same nature as they were straight in to arresting him and building the case against him and was worried he would do a runner. My issue is how higher management don't seem very bothered/ kind of defending the man that attacked my friend. Now we know alcohol was involved as it was an Xmas party but he still violently attacked her when she said no and tried to leave. I think higher management hadn't done a CRB check and are trying to cover their backs else they would of know about the previous police record. How can I follow this up? And also protect my friend.
CtH - 28-Dec-16 @ 7:25 PM
snez - Your Question:
Hi my husband is called Richard and to me and all his friends he is aka Rich and responds well to this as its an acceptable name to him, at present he has a female manager that will always call him Richie (she is calling him this over a radio in a sweet lengthened voice as if I would call him if I was after him doing something of which I don't call him this name) he has approached her and asked her to stop but she carried on he has been to the manager above her and lodged a verbal complaint about it and she got pulled up about it that day as was herd calling him it over the radio and stopped for that day but the next day she is calling him Richie again. He has also tried and still does ignore her when she calls him this over the radio and only responds to her when she calls him his normal name or acceptable name of rich, He really hates being called this and is now hating going to work because of this. Is this a form of sexual harassment from the way its being called to him any help appreciated many thanks snezz

Our Response:
This isn't sexual harassment but is certainly some kind of verbal abuse if she refuses to stop. Tell him to put this grievance in writing so there is a record of it should he wish to take it further.
SafeWorkers - 8-Dec-16 @ 2:08 PM
hi my husband is called Richard and to me and all his friends he is aka Rich and responds well to this as its an acceptable name to him, at present he has a female manager that will always call him Richie (she is calling him this over a radio in a sweet lengthened voice as if i would call him if i was after him doing something of which i don't call him this name) he has approached her and asked her to stop but she carried on he has been to the manager above her and lodged a verbal complaint about it and she got pulled up about it that day as was herd calling him it over the radio and stopped for that day but the next day she is calling him Richie again. He has also tried and still does ignore her when she calls him this over the radio and only responds to her when she calls him his normal name or acceptable name of rich, He really hates being called this and is now hating going to work because of this. Is this a form of sexual harassment from the way its being called to him any help appreciated many thanks snezz
snez - 7-Dec-16 @ 7:16 AM
Want to know about sexual assault by husband.... I got married six months befor... my husband made sex without emotions & without feel or love ...he is just sick for sex
Aman - 1-Dec-16 @ 11:58 AM
Stripe - Your Question:
What do I do if an older male colleuge repeatedly rings me saying he loves me etc keeps wanting me to work with him and making untruth comments such as claiming we exchanged kisses

Our Response:
Report it to your employer assexual harassment.
SafeWorkers - 16-Nov-16 @ 2:15 PM
What do I do if an older male colleuge repeatedly rings me saying he loves me etc keeps wanting me to work with him and making untruth comments such as claiming we exchanged kisses
Stripe - 16-Nov-16 @ 1:36 AM
Kd - Your Question:
I work filed a complaint against a male colleague who is senior to be for sexual harassment earlier this year. The harassment was in appropriate touching when he was explaining things and verbal, sadly I never confronted him as I froze. He is well known for doing this over many years and staff have moved, although they complained verbally, I am the only one who put it in writing. He was suspended and after many months he was found at fault(guilty) and he admitted he was wrong to some, but because "management failed to support him and his wrong doings" they had to allow him back on a 2yr warning. I am off sick and I want to be able to go back to the job I love, I have mental health issues and this has made them worse, he has had support and I feel I haven't. I want to go back and hold my head up and no feel uncomfortable, it's a close group, art some point we will have to work together, but how to I face him and I feel comfortable at the same time. I do not want to leave as I feel he has then one.

Our Response:
Please speak to your HR department about this. It's their job to be helping you, as the victim, to continue with your job.
SafeWorkers - 9-Nov-16 @ 10:39 AM
I work filed a complaint against a male colleague who is senior to be for sexual harassment earlier this year. The harassment was in appropriate touching when he was explaining things and verbal, sadly I never confronted him as I froze. He is well known for doing this over many years and staff have moved, although they complained verbally, I am the only one who put it in writing. He was suspended and after many months he was found at fault(guilty) and he admitted he was wrong to some, but because "management failed to support him and his wrong doings" they had to allow him back on a 2yr warning. I am off sick and I want to be able to go back to the job I love, I have mental health issues and this has made them worse, he has had support and I feel I haven't. I want to go back and hold my head up and no feel uncomfortable, it's a close group, art some point we will have to work together, but how to I face him and I feel comfortable at the same time. I do not want to leave as I feel he has then one.
Kd - 8-Nov-16 @ 8:27 AM
L - Your Question:
Hello I have delt with sexual harassment at my work place for roughly 2 years now by sexual harassment I mean dirty jokes, disgusting things said and also physically being touched. I have told my manager he blamed this on 'cultural difference' I have now written him a letter with incidences that have happened and while I was writing the letter I wrote down dates during the week of how people were touching me and their comments. I have not heard anything back and I'm not happy with how unhelpful they have been. I'm still quite young and have no idea how I need to approach this can you help me?

Our Response:
Can you speak to a more senior manager about this? If you can, do so as soon as possible as there is a 3 month time limit. If there is no senior manager/your employer, that you can contact, you should contact ACAS about taking it to a tribunal.
SafeWorkers - 1-Nov-16 @ 2:10 PM
Hello I have delt with sexual harassment at my work place for roughly 2 years now by sexual harassment I mean dirty jokes, disgusting things said and also physically being touched. I have told my manager he blamed this on 'cultural difference' I have now written him a letter with incidences that have happened and while I was writing the letter I wrote down dates during the week of how people were touching me and their comments. I have not heard anything back and I'm not happy with how unhelpful they have been. I'm still quite young and have no idea how I need to approach this can you help me?
L - 31-Oct-16 @ 12:23 PM
Hi I'm female worker. At my work place my employer disturb me. He try to touch me he try to kiss me 2 times. I told him That his is my father ages. I can't quit work before I find another work. But he is abused with me. I don't know what should I do. Please help me. I can't say to anyone. I've try to tell my partner but he told me probably i don't understand my employer. O can't tell him all the things became Iam shame. Please help me
No name - 29-Oct-16 @ 11:48 PM
My organization come to do a Fact-finding investigation after Complaint against possible sexual harassment was made against me by my secretary. I ask a memory stick from my secretary and she alleged that after she give it to me I made the remark that I will put the stick in her hole. Her witness she called to testify for her who was present at the time sad I never made that remark. Yet my organization wants to proceed with a form investigation interviews. Can I lodge a formal criminal or civil charge against the complainant whiles the matter is still in process? When must you file your complaint of the incident taking place (within what time frame?) reason being that this happened 6 months ago.
Mac - 16-Oct-16 @ 9:50 PM
Bbking - Your Question:
I recently gave a female colleague a hug as I was feeling a bit low.she never at any point pushed away or declined it.shevin fact encouraged the hug.now ive been suspended pending further investigation on the accusation of innapropriate contact with a female in the workplace.what should I do and is it a sackable offence

Our Response:
You'll be given the chance to explain your side of the story. It might be worth seeking advice from your union rep if you have one - or you could try Citizen's Advice or ACAS if not.
SafeWorkers - 13-Oct-16 @ 1:53 PM
I recently gave a female colleague a hug as i was feeling a bit low.she never at any point pushed away or declined it.shevin fact encouraged the hug.now ive been suspended pending further investigation on the accusation ofinnapropriate contact with a female in the workplace.what should i do and is it a sackable offence
Bbking - 12-Oct-16 @ 4:02 PM
A female worker showed an interest to a male colleague & became friends outside to work too.The male worker often touched,hugged & even kissed the female worker with her consent, not sure if intercourse took place outside of work.Both r married. Now the female worker has made a complaint of sexual harassment against the male worker. Is this still classified as harassment?
Sonia - 8-Oct-16 @ 1:16 AM
I was talking to two girls over social media both girls engaged in sexual conversations with me but they found out I was talking to them both at the same time unaware of this I already decided to stop my conversations to both of them as I started to feel guilt over the conversations being inappropriate I apologised and deleted these girls from social media. I work with them both and have never said or done anything inappropriate in work after two weeks of not talking to them I'm not been suspended from work for harassment. I understand I shouldn't of talk to these girls about anything to do with sex but if they engaged in the conversation is it still harassment even when I stopped it and apologised for my action way before I knew about any complaints against me
Samsung - 2-Oct-16 @ 4:52 PM
Unknown - Your Question:
A member of staff has an interest in me that is not reciprocated. He started by forcing himself upon me when intoxicated. I pushed him off and told him to go home. He apologised for his behaviour on this occasion. After his apologies I assumed he knew where he stood and assumed we were friends. Then he asked me to have an affair with him, attempted to remove items of clothing, buying me gifts, texting and phoning me frequently. I have been politely declining his advances but I am now uncomfortable as the situation continues, despite me making him aware of how I feel. I do not have any faith in my HR team and union reps are unsavoury gossips. Im currently burying my head in the sand but don't know what to do because it needs to stop. Please help!

Our Response:
You must report this to your employer - the HR department should follow the correct procedure and if they don't you can legitimately complain about the action of the employer as well as this particular individual. You need to report sexual harassment within three months of the incident so act fast. Do you have a trusted colleague who help? If you want extra support/individual advice, then ACAS will be able to help. There's also more information in our FAQ
SafeWorkers - 29-Sep-16 @ 9:56 AM
A member of staff has an interest in me that is not reciprocated. He started by forcing himself upon me when intoxicated. I pushed him off and told him to go home. He apologised for his behaviour on this occasion. After his apologies I assumed he knew where he stood and assumed we were friends. Then he asked me to have an affair with him, attempted to remove items of clothing, buying me gifts, texting and phoning me frequently. I have been politely declining his advances but I am now uncomfortable as the situation continues, despite me making him aware of how I feel. I do not have any faith in my HR team and union reps are unsavoury gossips. Im currently burying my head in the sand but don't know what to do because it needs to stop. Please help!
Unknown - 28-Sep-16 @ 1:23 AM
Despair - Your Question:
Im femail working in it male dominated office. Has been assigned to young 26yo manager only just appointed. Ever since started the job there has been weird vibe from him towards me. Soulmate like feeling and seducive tone of voice then streching and showing his biceps as he is concious of his good looks. Watching my reaction and the feeling he is reading me like an open book as if he is implying I know you think im hot and im up for it if you are. Then giving me dirty looks on my bottom and watching me literally flash as how are you suppose to feel being a girl in all man surrounding you. I was clear from very start I am engaged and set strick professional tone. Advances never stopped. Now im off sick couldnt cope any more informed hr who want a meeting and investigate.what and how!???? How on earth am I suppose to prove his behaviour and that its unbearable for me?Please help do I need strong evidence and witnesses for something to change?Thank you your help would be appreciated.

Our Response:
Just make a list of all the reasons as to why you think you've been harassed and simply state your case. The article above should help you.
SafeWorkers - 21-Sep-16 @ 12:33 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeWorkers website. Please read our Disclaimer.