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Sexual Harassment: What Employers Need to Know

In 2020, many companies switched to remote work to keep their employees and the community as a whole safe. As many workers start to return to the office, we are all adjusting to a new normal — and re-adjusting to being in the workplace instead of at home. That makes this a perfect time for employers to revisit their sexual harassment policies, procedures, and trainings.

According to a recent survey, 81% of women and 43% of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of ways, including:

  • Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors (also known as quid pro quo sexual harassment);

  • Requesting sexual favors;

  • Discussing sexual relations/fantasies/stories at work, school, or in another inappropriate place;

  • Exposing private parts to others;

  • Sending unwanted sexually explicit or charged photos, emails, or text messages;

  • Pressuring someone to engage in sexual activity;

  • Making unwelcome sexual advances;

  • Touching someone without their consent;

  • Verbally harassing someone, including making “jokes;” and

  • Committing physical acts of sexual assault.

Significantly, sexual harassment is not limited to any particular gender and does not need to be motivated by a desire for sex. If a person harasses someone at work, in school, or in another environment on the basis of sex, it is considered sexual harassment. For example, if a male supervisor makes homophobic remarks to a gay male employee, it is considered sexual harassment or discrimination even if the supervisor identifies as heterosexual. Importantly, sexual harassment is not confined to a work or school setting, and may occur in almost any situation — on the street, in a store, or even at a park.

Many workplace sexual harassment trainings are ineffective because they are more focused on reducing the employer’s legal liability than on actually stopping sexual harassment. Most are mandatory, and focus on forbidden behaviors (i.e., don’t do this). As a result, many employees — and particularly male employees — walk away from these trainings more likely to blame victims of sexual harassment and to believe that people who report harassment are overreacting or simply making it up. Research actually shows that men who are inclined to sexually harass women in the workplace are more accepting of this behavior after going to a typical sexual harassment training.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the sexual harassment trainings that have long been used in workplaces across the United States. Blackburn Center offers comprehensive training that includes:

  • Workplace climate assessment

  • Company policy and practice consultation

  • Employee training, both in-person and online

  • Management team training

  • Follow-up resources

You can learn more about our training program, Creating Safe and Thriving Workplaces, via our website, by calling us at 724-837-9540 x 114, or by emailing

As an organization, we are dedicated to ending all forms of gender-based violence — including sexual harassment. To achieve this goal, we offer a range of services for victims and survivors as well as for the community as a whole. We strongly believe that education is critical to changing our culture — and helping us all live in safer, healthier communities.

If you need help, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-832-2272 (TDD available). Calls to our hotline are free of charge and can be anonymous.


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