Employment law attorney Andrea Downing delves further into what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace in this week’s FAQ Friday.

Is same-sex sexual harassment in the workplace actionable?

Sexual harassment is not limited to a man harassing a woman or a woman harassing a man. “A man can have a claim of sexual harassment if another man is sexually harassing him,” Downing explains. “As can a woman if another woman is harassing her.” What really matters is whether the inappropriate conduct would be done if the person being harassed was of the opposite sex.

What if a superior is sexually harassing numerous people in the office?

Downing says if your boss regularly makes suggestive comments to everyone in the workplace it may not constitute as sexual harassment. “While it’s not going to look great in front of the jury, it’s not going to be a great sexual harassment case because the boss is doing it to everyone somewhat equally.”

Is a supervisory relationship required for something to be considered sexual harassment?

A supervisory relationship is not required to constitute conduct as sexual harassment in the workplace. However, Downing says, “If a supervisor is the harasser of a subordinate, that would be helpful in terms of liability because the company is presumed to know about it.” But if a co-worker is harassing another coworker at the same level, the person being harassed has to report the incident(s) to HR in order to ensure the company is liable for the conduct — not the individual.

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