There are numerous types of harassment that employees can experience in the workplace. One of them is sexual harassment, and it comes in various forms.

Federal law recognizes that discrimination based on sex violates the Civil Rights Act, and most states also prohibit it. Along with how it affects the victim, sexual harassment can cost a company a lot of money due to different factors.

What constitutes sexual harassment

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the federal law against sexual harassment pertains to labor organizations, private employers that employ 15 or more people and government organizations. It is harassment if offensive conduct relating to sex is unwelcome, either by the intended victim or an observer.

A harasser can be anyone the victim comes into contact with during the course of work. This includes clients, supervisors, co-workers or agents. The harasser, as well as the victim, can be a man or a woman.

Forbes discusses that proving sexual harassment can be difficult, as there is not a clear definition. Some describe it as:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Creation of hostile work environment
  • Violation of victim’s dignity or mental health
  • Violation that compromises career

Costs of sexual harassment

There are both visible and invisible costs of sexual harassment. Visible ones are those related to legal fees and settlements. Invisible ones relate to victim absenteeism, low worker productivity,  turnover rates, reputational costs and high health costs.

Although sexual harassment is more on the forefront than it used to be, it is still a big issue. Many victims refuse to report complaints, and some companies do not have effective procedures for dealing with complaints.