People who don’t conform to others’ expectations of their gender or sexuality often face abuse or mistreatment. People who identify as homosexual, bisexual, transgender, non-binary or non-gender-conforming may all have to deal with cruel behavior from other people, potentially even including their own families.
While the government can’t stop people from mistreating those who are different, it does have rules in place that protect people from harassment in specific situations. Jokes, abuse and cruel nicknames in your workplace that relate to your gender, sexuality or identity may constitute sexual harassment.
Attraction is not a necessary part of a sexual harassment claim
Many people don’t truly understand what constitutes sexual harassment. They may mistakenly believe that they can only bring a claim of sexual harassment against someone they think has an attraction to them and demonstrates it in the workplace.
However, harassment doesn’t stem from the feelings of the perpetrator. Instead, it focuses on how their words or actions make the victim feel. If someone frequently makes jokes at your expense, intentionally excludes you from workplace socialization or otherwise abuses or discriminate against you because of your identity or sexuality, their behavior may constitute sexual harassment.
Reporting abusive behavior to your employer is the first step toward stopping harassment. It can feel very intimidating to speak up, especially if it will be obvious who brought the complaint. Still, your employer has an obligation to protect you. Their allowing people to create a hostile work environment because of your sexuality or gender violates your rights as a worker.