Can sexual harassment be subtle?

By now, everyone should know it is impermissible to try to exchange sexual favors for advancement at work. Still, clear-cut sexual harassment happens with alarming regularity in the U.S. In fact, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 38% of women and 14% of men say they have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is not always easy to identify. Nevertheless, subtle sexual harassment is still unacceptable and illegal. Here are some types of less obvious sexual harassment you may experience at work.

Personal communications

A growing number of employers in the U.S. expects workers always to be available to answer e-mails, text messages and voicemails. Nevertheless, work communications should be about work-related matters. If you receive work messages that have personal components, you may be vulnerable to sexual harassment.

Accidental contact

At one time or another, virtually everyone has had another person accidentally press up against him or her. While there certainly is such a thing as accidental contact, an unscrupulous colleague or manager may use incidental physical contact to sexually harass you.

Personal space

Every individual has an area of personal space that others should respect. If someone routinely gets too close or otherwise violates your personal space, he or she may have bad intentions. Therefore, you should not feel bad about lodging a complaint for repeated violations of your personal space.

While a single comment, touch or encroachment may not constitute sexual harassment, you do not have to let subtle sexual harassment become something more violating. Ultimately, by reporting subtle behaviors, you give your employer an opportunity to stop sexual harassment in its tracks.