Ch 1 Lesson 1: Types of Workplace Harassment: Verbal, Nonverbal, Physical & Visual

Conduct constituting workplace sexual harassment can come in various forms. In this lesson, you’ll
learn about verbal, nonverbal, physical and visual forms of workplace sexual harassment. A short quiz follows.

Sexual Harassment Defined

Before we identify the forms sexual harassment can take, let’s take a moment to define sexual
harassment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and and other verbal, physical, or visual conduct that fundamentally discriminates against an employee because of his or her gender. It is important to note that sexual
harassment claims are based on discrimination, and do not need necessarily need to include sexual
conduct (though they often do). Now, let’s see the ways this inappropriate conduct can be carried out.

A common form of sexual harassment is verbal. Examples of verbal workplace sexual harassment

  • Offensive jokes of a sexual nature or sexist nature
  • Repeated and unwelcomed requests for sexual favors
  • Repeated and unwelcomed requests for dates
  • Excessive and unwelcomed flirting
  • Threats regarding adverse employment action if sexual favors are not granted
  • Unwelcome compliments of a sexual nature

You’ll notice that the verbal conduct involves unwelcome conduct that is repetitive and excessive.
An isolated verbal incident may not rise to the level of workplace sexual harassment. On the other
hand, if a single incident is egregious enough, such as demanding sex to keep a job, one incident
is enough for sexual harassment.

Nonverbal Sexual Harassment

As you would probably expect, not all sexual harassment is verbal in nature. Sexual harassment can
also occur through nonverbal communication. Nonverbal sexual harassment does not involve oral
communication or physical contact. Some examples of nonverbal sexual harassment include lewd or
suggestive gesturing, winking and leering.

Visual Sexual Harassment

It should come as no surprise that sexual harassment may derive from visual media. Examples of
visual sexual harassment include:

  • Lewd or sexually suggestive pictures Lewd or sexually suggestive videos
  • Offensive jokes of a sexual nature in written or electronic form, such as an email, instant
  • messaging or text messaging
  • Lewd, sexist or other type of written communication of a sexual nature Suggestive ‘pinups’
  • Cartoons
  • Sexually-provocative dress

Physical Sexual Harassment

The final form of workplace sexual harassment we’ll discuss is physical sexual harassment. Examples
of physical sexual harassment include:
Unwelcome touching on any part of a person’s body Brushing or bumping up against another person
Leaning over or standing too close
Note that physical contact is not essential for physical sexual harassment – invasion into your
personal space can be sufficient. You should also note that a voluntary touching can become
unwelcome. For example, a handshake may start voluntarily but become unwelcome if it ceases to
become a greeting and becomes an opportunistic touching.

Lesson Summary
Let’s review what we’ve learned. Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It can
be verbal or nonverbal. Sexual harassment can also be visual and physical in nature.

  • Learning Outcomes
  • Once you’ve finished with this lesson, you will have the ability to:
  • Define sexual harassment
  • Describe verbal, nonverbal, physical and visual examples of sexual harassment Note when a single
  • incident may be enough to constitute verbal harassment
  • Explain how voluntary touching may become unwelcome