Ask a Lawyer: 4 Examples of Behavior You Might Not Realize Could Be Considered Sexual Harassment

Most of us are familiar with the more obvious forms of sexual harassment, but there is some behavior that qualifies as sexual harassment that you may not realize is a problem. If you’ve been a victim of any of these types of behavior, contact a sexual harassment lawyer.

Ask a Sexual Harassment Lawyer: 4 Examples of Behavior You Might Not Realize Could Be Considered Sexual Harassment

Indirect Threats, Bribes, or “Jokes”

Not all sexual harassment is overt. It’s very common for harassers to make indirect threats or promises, or to immediately qualify things they have said by calling them jokes. These may still be sexual harassment if they violate the EEOC guidelines that interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964.

According to these guidelines, what’s important is whether or not the behavior is welcome. Unwelcomed, unwanted behavior is a problem, even if the person is trying to qualify their statements.

Unusual Non-Verbal Contact

It’s possible to make contact with someone in a way that qualifies as sexual harassment even if no one says a word and nothing is written down. Most of us are aware that inappropriate touching, kissing, or rubbing of a person, even over their clothing, qualify as sexual harassment when this behavior is not wanted, but other non-verbal contacts also rise to the level of harassment, like:

  • Standing in someone’s way in order to block their movements
  • Staring at a person to look them up and down
  • Following a person around constantly when there is no reason to do so and the victim has asked for the behavior to stop
  • “Accidentally” brushing up against people
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Persistent “Courting”

Old social mores sometimes put pressure on men to aggressively pursue a woman they’re interested in. Those same old mores put pressure on women to allow this behavior and see it as flattering. Times have changed, and there is particularly no place for this behavior in the workplace. If someone in the workplace repeatedly says no to requests for a date, that refusal should never be taken as a sign the person is just “playing hard to get.”

Indirect Lewd Talk

Some victims, and some sexual harassers, think that sexual harassment has not happened unless the behaviors are directed very specifically at a particular person. Some harassers feel perfectly safe making lewd comments in front of other people. These may include jokes, descriptions of sexual experiences, or insulting comments about a gender.

If a listener expresses that this talk is unwanted, and the harasser continues to engage in such talk in front of them, this qualifies as sexual harassment.

Know How Harassment Progresses

Sometimes there are levels of progression in harassment, as the harasser becomes bolder, though some harassers simply start out very bold and aggressive. We’re often socially pressured to write off the early stages as just “normal” or “boys-will-boys” type behavior, but even the early behaviors can qualify as harassment. Whatever type of harassment you’re experiencing, get in touch with qualified Kansas City sexual harassment lawyers for help.


Often, harassment starts with seemingly innocent comments on someone’s physical features. In many cases, a compliment is just a compliment. But if a compliment comes off as a bit rude, or if the behavior becomes constant, especially if the victim has made it clear they aren’t comfortable with the compliments, there’s a problem.

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Unwelcome Talk and Attention

In this stage, a harasser’s behavior becomes bolder. He or she may spend too much time staring at colleagues’ bodies, making lewd jokes, or ostentatiously describing sexual encounters or desires, ignoring all the subtle signals from coworkers that this makes them uncomfortable.

“Acceptable” Touching

Even the most blatant and unrepentant of sexual harassers is likely aware that certain touching will get them in trouble, and so, in this stage, the emboldened harasser starts off “small.” He or she initiates physical contact that’s generally socially acceptable, like touches on the shoulder, a hand on the back, etc.

If the harasser doesn’t get a strongly negative response immediately–and sometimes even if they do!–they will quickly move to less socially acceptable touches. They will often start with more innocent touches, such as to the back, and then allow their hand to drift into less acceptable areas. They may also engineer run-ins that allow them to “accidentally” touch someone’s private parts.

Abuse and Threats

At this stage, there’s usually no possibility of confusion. These are all behaviors we understand are harassment (though the abusers themselves may claim they don’t know this). This is where a harasser engages in overt sexual touching, solicits sexual favors, makes threats (direct or implied) if denied sex, and may even move on to full-blown sexual assault if not quickly stopped.Even if you’re not completely certain that what you’re experiencing is sexual harassment, it’s worth consulting with a lawyer to get more information and help specific to your situation.

Socially Keeda

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