How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be extremely damaging to the mental and physical well-being of the victim. But the consequences stretch far beyond individual—sexual harassment also creates a hostile work environment that results in a drop in morale and productivity, increased turnover, and damage to the company’s brand and reputation. These take a lot of effort, time, and money to restore.

What Is Harassment?

Harassment is any behavior that consists of repeated or unwanted contact with the sole intention to create torment, annoyance, fear, or emotional distress to the victim. It can occur in person, through phone calls, or online. Find out more about what it means when somebody is harassing you.

Repeated harassment can be classified as stalking, or, if it’s happening on the Internet, cyberstalking. If you’re dealing with a stalker in your life, read our advice on how to stop a stalker and how to obtain a restraining order.

Sexual harassment refers to a range of inappropriate behavior that’s sexual in nature. It may or may not be physical. It can include acts like:

  • Sharing unsolicited sexual content
  • Requesting dates or sexual favors 
  • Making derogatory or lewd comments about the victim’s appearance, sexual orientation, or gender identification
  • Making unwanted sexual advances 
  • Engaging in inappropriate touching or gestures

Two Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In the late 1980s, the Supreme Court made amendments to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination based on “sex” and define it as sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, but one of the most prevalent places where it happens seems to be at work. Sexual harassment is also the most common form of workplace harassment. In 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) reported that a little more than half of the claims they received that year were related to sex-based harassment, while a quarter was specifically about sexual harassment.  

Sexual harassment in the workplace generally falls into two categories:

  1. Hostile environment sexual harassment
  2. Quid pro quo sexual harassment 

A hostile environment sexual harassment is continuous, unsolicited behavior that has a sexual connotation and, as a result, creates a hostile work environment for the victim. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is somewhat different as it requires a (proposed or executed) exchange of actions. For example, a sexual favor exchanged for a professional gain, such as a promotion or raise, is considered quid pro quo harassment. (“Quid pro quo” is Latin for “this for that.”) 

Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Work

There are plenty of things your company can do to enhance the health and well-being of its employees, prevent or drastically reduce sexual harassment, and improve the response when sexual harassment does occur. These are:

  1. Corporate training
  2. Anti-harassment policy
  3. Clear reporting procedures
  4. Zero-tolerance policy
  5. Focus on staff welfare

Corporate Training

By mandating regular courses and training on harassment and discrimination in the workplace, companies can ensure that there is a high level of awareness regarding these issues among their employees. The knowledge and understanding of how to deal with harassment should encourage victims to report the misconduct, and make sure the perpetrators are held accountable.

Anti-Harassment Policy

Every company should have a policy addressing harassment and sexual harassment at work, which also clearly outlines the whistleblowing and reporting procedures. All employees ought to be familiar with it, and newcomers should read the policy as a part of their onboarding process. 

Clear Reporting Procedures

By making sure there is a clear reporting procedure in place that protects the anonymity and security of the harassment victims, companies will create a safe environment that promotes speaking up against the abuse. 

Zero-Tolerance Policy

If the anti-harassment efforts work only in theory and exist solely on policy documents, then the organization is failing to protect its employees from sexual harassment. Nobody found guilty of sexual harassment should be spared the consequences, regardless of their title, status, or position in the company.

Focus on Staff Welfare

Companies should provide a platform (whether it’s a monthly meeting or an anonymous survey, for example) where the staff members can discuss things at work, which are making them uncomfortable. Nurturing transparency and honest conversation is the cornerstone of a pleasant, productive, harassment-free work environment.

Sexual Vs. Non-Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace? Refer to the table below for an easy-to-grasp breakdown.

Sexual Workplace Harassment

Non-Sexual Workplace Harassment

  • Inappropriate sexual stories, jokes, and anecdotes
  • Offensive gestures and language, such as racial and ethnic slurs
  • Displays of sexually inappropriate material and content (including songs, video clips, posters, photos, etc.)
  • Displays of generally inappropriate or offensive content based on other grounds
  • Lewd remarks about someone’s looks, sexual orientation or gender 
  • Offensive stereotypes (based on somebody’s race, gender, religion, ethnicity, social background, etc.)
  • Intentional touching or brushing up against the other person
  • Discrimination based on someone’s race, age, ethnicity, religion, skin color, gender, etc.
  • Advances or requests that are of sexual nature
  • General abuse of power over subordinate employees

DoNotPay Helps You Stop Sexual Harassment at Work 

You may feel reluctant to rock the boat further, but taking formal action against your harasser is critical. It protects not just you, but any other future victims of that perpetrator. 

The DoNotPay app makes this a quick and stress-free process. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the DoNotPay app in your web browser or on your iOS device
  2. Click on the Relationship Protection button
  3. Go to Explore Relationship Services
  4. Select Safety and Stalking, then choose Let’s Do It
  5. Opt for Stalking from the provided options—this also covers harassment
  6. Provide answers to the chatbot’s questions

When you give the chatbot all the necessary details about the sexual harassment experience you’re going through, DoNotPay will create a cease and desist letter on your behalf. This document will be addressed to the harasser informing them to stop (cease) their misconduct and not restart it (desist).

In the case that the cease and desist letter doesn’t stop the harassment, it will serve as evidence that you’ve attempted to resolve the matter on your own. The cease and desist letter also warns the harasser that you plan to report them or file a lawsuit against them if they persist in sexual harassment.

Running a Tight Ship With DoNotPay 

If you’re struggling to get your life back in order and the items on your to-do list seem to be multiplying by the day, we’re sure you wouldn’t mind some help!

Dubbed as the world’s first robot lawyer, DoNotPay harnesses state-of-the-art AI technology that can automate a lot of problem-solving for you.

To get started, download DoNotPay in any web browser or on your iOS device.

Our app can help you to: