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The difference between simple teasing and sexual harassment

The current political climate has drawn attention to instances of sexual harassment over the last couple of years. While this has helped bring to light the troubling prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, it has also led to an environment of fear. Some employees might be afraid to make what they would perceive to be jokes in good humor with co-workers of the opposite gender.

There is, however, a clear difference between friendly teasing or humorous jokes, and behavior that can be defined as sexual harassment, whether the average employee realizes this. The biggest difference lies in how the behavior is received. If you have experienced teasing behavior that you believe constitutes sexual harassment, it is a good idea to understand how the law fully defines sexual harassment.

When could teasing constitute sexual harassment?

Teasing could be classed as sexual harassment if it is making the person on the receiving end of the behavior feel uncomfortable. For example, if you are being teased about your appearance by a co-worker, you may find this amusing at first. However, if this teasing persists, you may become uncomfortable in the workplace. If the behavior is persistent or severe enough to have created a hostile work environment, it can be classed as harassment.

When is teasing not legally problematic?

There is nothing wrong with sharing humorous exchanges in the workplace. This type of humor is healthy, so long as all co-workers feel comfortable and not victimized.

If you have been subject to teasing that you are not comfortable with, you have the right to take action to protect your workplace rights.

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