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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy
Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

Can teasing be considered sexual harassment at work?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Employment Law |

The law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing or offhand comments in the office. People making funny comments about minor issues may not be considered harmful. But in some instances, teasing can constitute sexual harassment.

Here is what to know about this matter:

When it creates a hostile work environment

If someone teases you frequently or makes a serious comment, creating a hostile work environment for you, your case may be considered sexual harassment. This may also be the case if someone’s comment results in an unfavorable employment decision, such as being fired or demoted.

Note that an offensive comment may not need to be directed to you to create a hostile work environment. For example, it’s illegal for someone to harass you by making an offensive comment about your gender in general.

Further, someone of your gender can also harass you. Just because the comment was made by someone of your gender does not mean it does not constitute harassment.

How to report it 

If you believe you have experienced verbal sexual harassment at work, write down the comment, the names of witnesses, the location of the incident and the time and date. And if it was not a one-time instance, you can document how many times it has happened. 

Then, review your employee handbook, as it may have specific steps you need to take before reporting the case to the Human Resources (HR) department. Once you get to HR, they will interview you before beginning an investigation, which can entail interviewing the alleged harasser and witnesses.  

When the HR has enough information, they will make the appropriate decision.

If you believe your case was not or cannot be fairly handled internally, consider legal guidance to protect your rights.