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Subtle signs of sexual harassment in the workplace

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Sexual Harassment |

Sexual harassment in an office setting is not always blatant. Aside from obvious physical advances, there are subtle forms of misconduct that still have the potential to create an unsafe and hostile work environment.

For instance, certain words and actions may seem innocent to some, but they could actually be one of three types of subtle harassment: verbal, non-verbal and behavioral.


Compliments are one thing; inappropriate comments about your appearance are another. Sexual humor, innuendos, remarks, or demeaning language that make you feel uncomfortable and disrespected can be types of harassment. Similarly, invasive questions about your personal life, sexual preferences and relationships can be out of line and grounds for a complaint.


Unsolicited physical contact and suggestive gestures such as leering, winking, and other non-verbal gestures that make you feel objectified can be sexual harassment – especially if you told the offending parties to stop multiple times. Even seemingly casual touches such as a lingering handshake, a shoulder rub or invading your personal space may be inappropriate behavior.


Continuous flirting despite your showing disinterest is inappropriate in an office setting. Also, calling or messaging you outside of work for personal reasons may constitute sexual harassment if you do not wish to engage in these exchanges.

Social media stalking and leaving unwanted comments on your accounts could warrant a report to your human resources department or local authorities.

Most victims suffer in silence because they are not sure what constitutes sexual harassment. Some women and men experiencing sexual harassment feel they have no choice but to put up with it until it starts affecting their work performance, causing psychological harm and jeopardizing relationships.

However, when it comes to workplace sexual harassment, know that you have the rights worth defending. Whether harassment is overt or subtle, it can be highly damaging, so reporting it and calling it out can be crucial in protecting workers.