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Sexual Harassment at Work

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 8 Oct 2019 | 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.

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I have worked with my boss for 2 years now. He has recently gone through a separation and is clearly struggling. He had drank a bit one evening when we were both working away and touched me inappropriately. I froze not know what to do.. I moved away from him and got out of the situation.I'm too scared to say anything he has just been promoted to a senior position.. I thought I could ignore it, and put it down to him be stupid but now feel he is isolating me and excluding me at work and its eating me up inside that he thought it was some how acceptable.
Dont know - 8-Oct-19 @ 12:57 PM
I know, sounds ridiculous. But I had no symptoms whatsoever in all that time. I did not cough or have shortness of breath. Then suddenly I became quite ill and was hospitalised. I was stunned to find that I had stage 4 Emphysema. A friend of mine introduced me to a doctorcalled DR JOE,BEST HEALTH HERBAL CENTRE owner (ww w. besthealthherbalcentre. co m) who sent me herbal medicines which he prepared for me, and my life got transformed and everything was fine and okay with me. Difficulty catching a deep breath stop completely and my lungs function is back to normal.
MAC - 25-Jun-19 @ 2:18 PM
I am a general manager for a retail store. I was assisting my cashier at the register when one of the alarms went off. I went over to the location and a woman was walking with a bag full of merchandise, I said I can take that for you and hold it...she was releasing the bag to me until her partner came running around the corner and I was pulled because the shoplifter grabbed the bag from my hands once her partner maced me... in the end it was considered my fault for using a recovery statement. I’m confused and disagree with the outcome.
Confused - 24-May-19 @ 12:04 AM
Today at work I was talking to one of the managers about a problem I was having with invoicing. During the conversation I felt the back of my dress at the neck pull down and 4 wet gross kisses on the back/side of my neck. I turned round and shouted at the man who had done it who was laughing. I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing and it was inappropriate and out of order. I asked the manager I was talking to if he saw it and he just sat on the fence and said he didn’t see anything. How could he not see? He was standing 2 feet in front of me. I left work and he came up to my car and said sorry and he felt bad and he knew it was inappropriate and he didn’t want to upset me. I said he was out of order and drove off. I spoke to my colleague about it on the phone and she rang the manager to ask if he saw anything and he said he did! Apparently he reported it to senior management as soon as I left and I will be able to go in tomorrow to give my account. I’m just a bit worried they are going to just have a little chat with him and let him off with a minor warning. I am having panic attacks and anxiety since it happened earlier today!
TFW - 6-Feb-19 @ 6:36 PM
I was touched up by my boss and I have it on camera in Jan 2017. My regional manger said he sorted it. But he still works 4 the company. I have had to moveto a different shop as they wanted him to run mine and I hate were they put me. I have had to leave I so gutted cause I worked 4 the company for about 4 yrs. Going far. Now this has set me back cause I stood up to him
Nina - 1-Jan-19 @ 8:45 PM
Four years ago after two weeks in the hospital I was diagnosed with late stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sent home to on oxygen 24/7. After some months of being on oxygen my family decided to try natural supplements on me. They purchased COPD herbal remedy from BEST HEALTH HERBAL CENTRE after seeing amazing testimony about their COPD herbal remedy. So After six weeks of usage, my life changed automatically, Shortness of breath and chest pressure disappeared completely. Last week I was checked by a different pulmonologist and tested and he said I don't have COPD anymore.
ELLY - 2-Nov-18 @ 2:06 AM
I was talking to 3 senior managers (all male) at work. One asked to cuddle me twice and I clearly said no twice. He wrapped his arms around me and put his head on my chest. I felt humiliated and degraded. I reported him as a few hours after the incident he told me he did it on purpose because he finds me cold and wanted to get me out of my comfort zone. After my grievance was badly handled I ended up on the sick with stress. I returned to find he hadn’t been moved whilst the incident was being investigated (he was the head of my dept). My grievance was eventually upheld and I was promised mediation so I could air my concerns to him. This was 2 years ago and due to being ignored by HR , mediation still hasn’t happened. I sent several emails to HR explaining how I was stressed at work due to the unresolved issues and the fact I still had to work for a man who touched me inappropriately. After waiting 2 years I started to get symptoms of depression and GAD ( work were aware that I have suffered these in the past) and I raised another grievance. I waited a year for the grievance outcome as the investigating officer then ignored me. She finally emailed me to say my grievance had been closed without my knowledge. This caused me to have a breakdown and another period of long term sick ( work related depression anxiety and stress). I have now been told it was ‘crossed wires ‘ and the man who touched me has now decided he doesn’t want to have mediation as he does not think it will help him! I have been put on half pay to force me back to work. I am now disabled, I have to take medication for GAD and depression and I can’t leave my house. I have been told that my sick won’t be treated as work related until I return ( therefore forcing me back). I have been suicidal at the way I have treated. I have been told I may be disciplined for being on long term sick . I have asked for reasonable adjustments ( none of which cost any money) and I have been told I will have to wait as they have to decide if they think they are reasonable . All I have asked for is my own desk ( everyone else has one ) and extra breaks if I am feeling anxious. However if I had a physical disability I would have been granted R.A. My disability was called a ‘difficulty’ by the owner of the company .Meanwhile the senior manager has a lovely new job and when he was told he wasn’t allowed to touch females at work he raised a grievance as he believes he did nothing wrong.
Jillian - 25-Oct-18 @ 9:41 PM
Ally - Your Question:
I’m 34 and there’s a guy at work in his fifties, married. I’m single. I’ve worked there a few years and this guy is really friendly and a favourite with people in the work place. I kind of look at him as a father figure-he always looks out for us all and makes sure everyone is ok. However, the past six or so months I’ve been made to feel very uncomfortable. Christmas time, saying good byes to everyone in the office, everyone hugs and says merry Xmas. He messaged me on fb saying’ do you hug everyone that hard or just me?’ I laughed it off and said everyone, have a good Xmas. When he comes over, he will put his hand on my arm but leave it there longer than he should. I’ve been on a diet before my holiday with my bf and he will make comments saying ‘there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m perfect as I am’. I stopped going near his office to chat to him and his work section like I used to because I feel uncomfortable and don’t want to encourage anything. He had to go away with work and sent me a message on fb saying he was thinking about me. There’s banter in the office, usually at my expense and he will finish with ‘I love you really’. A couple days ago, I was working at my computer on my own, I didn’t hear him come in behind me and I’m 70% certain he came behind me and kissed me on the back of the head and said just thought I’d pop and say hello. I know this would have been the perfect time to say something but I wasn’t 100% and was in shock to be honest. Originally I thought the guy is being overly friendly and kept my distance and didn’t respond to fb messages-the messages stopped. As silly as it sounds, I feel scared to say something in case it’s all innocent (although as I’m writing this, I know how it sounds and it’s not innocent!) and the fact everyone in the organisation likes him-if I complained, would I be treated seriously and would I be treated negatively by others??

Our Response:
If you feel uncomfortable you have to make a complaint - read the above article for more information. Talk to another colleague or your HR department if you're unsure.
SafeWorkers - 3-Aug-18 @ 12:33 PM
I’m 34 and there’s a guy at work in his fifties, married. I’m single. I’ve worked there a few years and this guy is really friendly and a favourite with people in the work place. I kind of look at him as a father figure-he always looks out for us all and makes sure everyone is ok. However, the past six or so months I’ve been made to feel very uncomfortable. Christmas time, saying good byes to everyone in the office, everyone hugs and says merry Xmas. He messaged me on fb saying’ do you hug everyone that hard or just me?’ I laughed it off and said everyone, have a good Xmas. When he comes over, he will put his hand on my arm but leave it there longer than he should. I’ve been on a diet before my holiday with my bf and he will make comments saying ‘there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m perfect as I am’. I stopped going near his office to chat to him and his work section like I used to because I feel uncomfortable and don’t want to encourage anything. He had to go away with work and sent me a message on fb saying he was thinking about me. There’s banter in the office, usually at my expense and he will finish with ‘I love you really’. A couple days ago, I was working at my computer on my own, I didn’t hear him come in behind me and I’m 70% certain he came behind me and kissed me on the back of the head and said just thought I’d pop and say hello. I know this would have been the perfect time to say something but I wasn’t 100% and was in shock to be honest. Originally I thought the guy is being overly friendly and kept my distance and didn’t respond to fb messages-the messages stopped. As silly as it sounds, I feel scared to say something in case it’s all innocent (although as I’m writing this, I know how it sounds and it’s not innocent!) and the fact everyone in the organisation likes him-if I complained, would I be treated seriously and would I be treated negatively by others??
Ally - 1-Aug-18 @ 3:16 AM
My partner works for a coffee chain. She was touched by a customer in an inappropriate way. He ran his fingers and nails up her arm. Her manager says he is not all there and has done nothing about it. My partner says it's an act and other female co workers agree. The perpetrator continues to come into the coffee shop and make overly suggestive comments and my partners appearance as well as stare at her for long periods. My partner feels helpless and that she has no choice but to stop working there. What can she do?
CaptainBob - 24-May-18 @ 8:35 PM
My boss is the owner of the company he makes my skin crawl made me a director I work part time he’s a joke
Nome - 20-Apr-18 @ 12:03 AM
juls - Your Question:
I was out yesterday on a co workers leaving do. there was a few of us but at about 10 pm one of the co workers felt me up and put his hand betwen my legs. I dont have proof or any witnesses is there anything I can do?

Our Response:
If it's awork-related/work organised social event, the Equality Act says your employer still has a duty to stop your colleagues from harassing you. Take a trusted colleague for moral support if you don't feel comfortable about reporting this directly yourself - but do report it to your manager or HR department.
SafeWorkers - 17-Apr-18 @ 9:20 AM
I was out yesterday on a co workers leaving do. there was a few of us but at about 10 pm one of the co workers felt me up and put his hand betwen my legs.. I dont have proof or any witnesses is there anything i can do?
juls - 16-Apr-18 @ 12:27 AM
I started work on 6 November and my employer started showing interest in me. He started texting me and when I didn't respond he got angry. So I responded and said all he wanted to hear because I was scared I work from his home and he kept telling me that he created the job for me and he wants me to be successful. He started touching me inappropriately and tried to kiss me he asked pictures from me but I didn't send them. I once asked him how much he is willing to pay to see those pictures I didn't mean anything by this i was just continuing with the conversation to keep him from touching me
Letha - 12-Dec-17 @ 3:33 PM
I have had a frosty reception from the day I started with this certain company .A manager claims my friend is a tea and biscuits girl but I'm more of a group orgy girl he could and would not explain why . The woman in the office do not like me I get glared at and when I say good morning no one replys I am well presented and good at my job . I also asked my manager if I would be there next year and was told prob not but the company would help me look for another job I have have my all to this company and I'm very professional no reasons or explanations have been given to me .What do I do apart from walk away
Emoji123 - 5-Dec-17 @ 8:37 PM
Rusty - Your Question:
Hi I work for a large quarrying company tarmac crh were bullying is rife. I've just returned off the sick after cancer treatment and already been shouted down to and threatened by my supervisor. Other workers have been treated the same and when someone complains management don't want to know what do you think is the best thing to do please.

Our Response:
If management hasn't responded and there are no higher sections to report this to (HR, CEO team etc) or a trade union to help, then you may have to report it to a tribunal. ACAS is the first step before a tribunal can be considered.
SafeWorkers - 5-Dec-17 @ 1:39 PM
Hi i work for a large quarrying company tarmac crh were bullying is rife . I've just returned off the sick after cancer treatment and already been shouted down to and threatened by my supervisor . Other workers have been treated the same and when someone complains management don't want to knowwhat do you think is the best thing to do please.
Rusty - 2-Dec-17 @ 10:15 PM
Where I work I live on site in staff accommodation, ive had an incidence where one night all the staff were drinking including one of the owners of the company, they all went to the local town except him. I was in the house sober as I was on duty for the night and he came up to my room and knocked on my door which I had locked. I answered as I thought something was wrong and he first of all asked for a hug which I awkwardly gave but then he tried to get more from me and kiss me. I had yo physically push him out the door and clearly said no. The business is a family run one so I didn't think anyone would believe me if I said anything but I broke down to a close friend and it's left me feeling very insecure and I'm a previous depression and anxiety sufferer so it's triggered bouts of that. I don't know what to do or where I stand. I'm now leaving the job but I don't want him to get away with it.
Beenie - 7-Oct-17 @ 10:44 AM
I have a female friend agency at work shes been there nearly 3 years. Very shy a worker asked her out lately and she refused . He wudn take no for an answer she complained 2 a supervisor amd manager but this worker seems to be related to both. No way in the world would she harass him as the tables have been turned n he complained that she harrassed him . Everyone at work knows this is not true and no one does anything about it. I need to help not just her but there are other girls. Their is a history of it but its all swept under the carpet i begining to worry as my wife and niece work here too
Sal - 19-Sep-17 @ 8:31 PM
Soria - Your Question:
An engineer at work slapped my bottom and when I challenged him and asked him to never do it again he said it's only a bit of banter if you want to take it further whatever. What can I do about it?

Our Response:
Report it to your employer. Tell them that the person in question did not seem to take it seriously.
SafeWorkers - 4-Aug-17 @ 2:23 PM
An engineer at work slapped my bottom and when I challenged him and asked him to never do it again he said it's only a bit of banter if you want to take it further whatever. What can I do about it?
Soria - 2-Aug-17 @ 3:18 PM
Hi what do I do ... I went to work as normal the boss opened up he was pushing memail with his hand on myour back at first I didn't think nothing of it then started you push me by my bottom into a class room got thir grabbed my shoulders and went to kiss me I says no and he tried again what should I do abut it ?
staz - 30-Jul-17 @ 11:28 PM
Hi My boyfriend came home quite shocked about what happened over the weekend to his co-worker who is only 16. The staff went out for a drink on the Friday, he didn't go but this morning the 16 year old confided in him that the office manger kissed her and she is now in trouble with her boyfriend who also works at the same firm. The office manager is a bit of a power trip type and the HR woman has no HR experience and has shown she knows nothing of employment law or treating employees with respect she just likes giving out written warnings and making a big deal of escorting employees off the premises. I was shocked and to be honest a little concerned for the young woman's welfare. What can my partner do to support her without getting the sack himself? Any advice?
Summer In Sussex - 19-Jun-17 @ 6:48 PM
What should my girlfriend do she's been grabbed by a employe at the place she cleans at he felt on her and pushed her up on a wall to touch her and the hr at his work won't do not hi g about it there was a picture taken by a super visior and more then one person said he's done it to them he's also been in trouble with the law and at his work place and they keep letting it happen should we get a lawyer or what can be done.
Herstory - 5-Jun-17 @ 9:48 PM
I was assulted at work by my client who suffers with Psychotic disorder, this is a mental disorder in which a person's personality is severly confused and loses touch with reality it is also known as Schizophrenia. I was threatned by my client with a pair of scissors also he verbaly said he was going to kill me. I tried to defuse the situation by giving him space and gently speaking to him.Their were other support workers in the house, they tried to difuse the situation but they were told to go away or l would get worse, by this time he had a pair of scissors in his hand so they left the house taking the other clients with them and locking the door's behind them. I was left with this client for two hours until l was able to get free. The paramedic and police arrived and arrested the client my employer was asked where were the panic alarms, they were told they didnt need them as the clients pay rent to a landlord and they are not responsible. I was off work after being sent home by my manager, l went to my DR's and was sent to the A&Edept for an exray, l had 2 black eyes but no fracture on my eye socket. I was suffering with stress and was given a sick note which l sent to my employers , by the third day l was sent an email to say that l hadnt turned up for work and with no reason why l would be recieving my p 45 in the post. l am now unemployed
Lady D - 21-Apr-17 @ 3:53 PM
Well it all started one day when my boss was making jokes about my bottom but I paid it no mind then one night he went to far when he took me home he started rubbing my leg and then rubbing me inappropriate then unbuttoned my pants I told him to stop and moved his hand but hekept going.what do I do I don't feel right being around him anymore
Sadcat - 15-Apr-17 @ 1:27 PM
I work within a shopping centre and a guy who works in a shop called me in asking for some information, he was stuffing a bean bag and asked me to try it to see if it was comfortable, as I did so he proceeded to roughly 'massage' my shoulders from behind, I repeatedly shouted 'stop' and he wouldn't so I had to throw myself on the floor, and I've now got extreme pain in my lower back not to mention that he has aggravated injuries I have to my neck shoulders and upper back, I can barely walk I'm in so much pain, what I want to know is, is this assault? I never gave him permission to pit his hands on me, I'm so upset
emz23 - 6-Mar-17 @ 10:00 PM
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
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