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When does teasing become harassment?

You're new on the job, and it goes without saying that you expected to have some teasing from others as you learned the ropes. What you didn't expect was for coworkers to tease you on a more personal level. When it's joking about your work ethic or your ability to learn something new quickly, it's a far cry from someone commenting on what you're wearing or how you act when you approach a customer.

Sexual harassment is an unlawful act. It's not legal to harass someone based on his or her sex. Sexual harassment comes in a few forms including requests for sexual favors, physical harassment, verbal harassment and unwelcome sexual offenses. Although it's common to hear about women facing harassment in the workplace, both men and women can be victims of harassment.

Someone is teasing me and I don't like it. Is it sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is illegal when it becomes frequent or severe. Simply teasing someone once or twice probably isn't enough for a harassment case unless it's so severe that it makes the workplace hostile toward that individual. Teasing could also be sexual harassment if it adversely affects an employment decision. For instance, making suggestive comments to a person who is up for a promotion and not promoting him or her because he or she fails to take you up on an offer is sexual harassment, even if it only happens one time.

Anyone can be the harasser in a work environment, from coworkers, clients and customers to supervisors and chief executive officers. If you feel you've been victimized, you should look into reaching out for help.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Sexual Harassment," accessed Oct. 26, 2017

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