What counts as sexual harassment in the workplace?

An avalanche of sexual harassment accusations has found its way to the limelight recently. A multitude of individuals from politicians to A-list celebrities are at the centre of colourful sexual harassment charges and court cases. But what really counts as sexual harassment in the workplace and what can you do to stop it?

What you need to know

There is a wide range of behaviour that could be labelled as sexual harassment. According to the Equality Act of 2010, it is unlawful to harass employees on a number of grounds. These include race, age, sexual orientation and other factors.

If you make a claim, it will be handled by the Employment Tribunal. The time limits are strict and the harassment has to have taken place in the last 3 months. If you feel you have been sexually harassed, you must report it as quickly as possible for it to be valid.

Under section 26 of the Equality Act, sexual harassment is misconduct related to sex. If it has the purpose or effect of ‘engaging in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ or violating the victim’s dignity then it is counted as harassment.

Common scenarios

If someone has purposely tried to harass you or done something that makes you feel the effect of harassment then you may have a claim. Here are a few common scenarios that can be disputed in court.

1. Unwanted touching over or under clothes.
2. Banter resulting in you being targeted due to gender or gender preferences.
3. Unwanted sexual advances by an employee or boss.
4. Viewing of pornographic images in your presence.
5. Spreading of rumours about your sexual life.
6. Unwanted comments or sounds in your direction such as wolf-whistling or kissing sounds.

What to do?

Sexual harassment and any other kind of harassment is illegal in the workplace and should not be tolerated. If you feel like you have been harassed, then you should immediately seek out legal help. Direct access barristers are a great source of free legal advice. Send us a message and we will walk you through the next steps. Laws exist to serve everyone and we all deserve excellent legal aid.