Making inappropriate comments or jokes about a person counts as sexual harassment. But harassment can also come in the form of unwanted touching, which is common in the workplace. In the National Public Radio’s joint survey with Ipsos, 35% of the respondents viewed inappropriate touching as an incident they associate with the workplace. But instead of stepping forward and filing a formal complaint, employees choose to stay silent and ignore what happened.
However, the #MeToo movement has changed how people deal with sexual harassment. Its impact has been so powerful that even the most harmless forms of touching have come under the spotlight.
But even with this much awareness on the nature and extent of inappropriate touching, the threat of unwanted physical contact at work still remains—and it can happen to anyone. This is why it’s important to understand what counts as inappropriate touching, how it happens, and what you can do to prevent it.
What is Inappropriate Touching at Work?
But what sort of behavior “crosses the line”? Just like other cases involving sexual harassment, inappropriate touching at work comes in different forms. These include:
- Groping or touching one’s body parts
- Giving the victim unwanted caresses or massages
- Brushing or rubbing against the victim’s body
- Attempting to touch the victim when the harasser is too close to them
- Forcing the victim to do sexual acts
- Holding a person’s hand without their consent
- Attempted or actual sexual assault
As a general rule of thumb, inappropriate touching at work counts as sexual harassment if it makes the person feel uncomfortable. And unless someone has a close relationship with an employee, there’s no reason for any sort of touching to take place.
Harassment through unwanted physical contact usually happens in a professional setting, which can result in a hostile working environment. After all, inappropriate touching can leave lasting physical and mental damage that could affect their performance or prevent them from returning to work.
But since unwelcome touching can be discreet, perpetrators can easily get away with it. That’s why it’s important for victims to speak up.
How Can You Prevent Inappropriate Touching at Work?
There is always a limit to physical contact in the workplace. And if someone crosses the line, you always have the option to file for a sexual harassment claim.
If you experience unwanted touching, make it clear that someone’s behavior is inappropriate. This eliminates the possibility of the perpetrator to argue later that they were unaware that their actions were unwelcome.
But if you feel uncomfortable addressing the issue with the person directly, you can reach out to your company’s Human Resources department or your supervisor so they can confront the perpetrator. If the toucher is your superior, however, it may be harder for you to object or step forward. But there’s always a way to signal to your concerns to people in authority—just remember to stay calm and stick with the facts. Make your point clear by stating what happened, the person involved, the time and date of the incident, and that you don’t want it to happen again.
How to File a Case for Unwanted Physical Contact
Before pressing charges, recount the incident and take note of what happened. Your account should include the following:
- When the incident took place (the exact date and time)
- The language the perpetrator used during the incident (whether it was sexual, derogatory, inappropriate, or disrespectful)
- The form of inappropriate touching that took place (groping, massages, or other forms of inappropriate physical contact)
- E-mails, letters, or notes from the perpetrator
All of these important details can strengthen your case and prevent similar incidents from happening to you or another co-worker.
Filing a Case in the Workplace
If you’re filing a case in the workplace, start by writing a formal report to your supervisor or Human Resources. Keeping your manager in the loop can help prove that the conduct was unwelcome, and even prevent the defendant from failing to give you unreasonable compensation.
After filing your complaint, your company should launch a fair and thorough investigation of your claim. Keep in mind that you must comply with your employer’s existing harassment protocols to make sure your case runs smoothly.
Filing a Case with the EEOC
In the event that your employer leaves your case unresolved, however, you can file a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), if your company has 15 or more employees.
The EEOC encourages victims to file their sexual harassment claims online or at any of their field offices. They can act as a mediator for all the parties involved or bring a formal complaint against your employer if you have gathered sufficient evidence.
Filing a Case in a Court of Law
Filing a sexual harassment case against the perpetrator/employer can also be done in a court of law. This step may help you obtain compensation for damages, including:
- Monetary compensation
- Punitive damages
- Job reinstatement
- The harasser’s termination from their job
- Company policy changes
Get Legal Advice from an Expert Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Even a harmless, friendly gesture from your employer or co-worker can be inappropriate, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. If you have experienced unwanted touching in the workplace, do not hesitate to file a sexual harassment claim with the help of a competent attorney.
An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help you understand complex sexual harassment laws are and how to move forward with your case. With aggressive legal representation, you have a higher chance of winning your case and getting the compensation you deserve. Reach out to Mesriani Law Group’s sexual harassment attorneys in Los Angeles or Santa Monica today.