You and a co-worker might have started off sharing some innocent-seeming banter, the occasional joke that made you blush and even some light-hearted flirting. Now, however, your co-worker’s behavior seems to be gradually escalating, and you are starting to get uncomfortable with the jokes and flirtatious touching. You might have told your co-worker to back off, only to have him or her ignore your requests or continue the behavior after a few days or weeks. Like many other Californians who are going through the same thing, you might wonder if you are a victim of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is easily defined, but it can be difficult to recognize. Those who do it are adept at being subtle enough to make you think it is all in your head or making you afraid to speak out. Sexual harassment is unwanted verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, and it is unlawful at work, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The following points illustrate common ways in which you might encounter sexual harassment on the job:

  • A manager, co-worker or customer makes unwelcome verbal or physical advances toward you.
  • The behavior may continue outside of work hours and can include receiving harassing texts, phone calls or stalking.
  • Your boss has placed sexually offensive material, such as nude calendars or posters, in a common area like a break room.
  • A supervisor informed you or implied that you have to put up with physical contact or harassment from customers as a condition of employment, and that he or she might fire or demote you if you speak out against the behavior.

You should not have to work in an environment where you feel uncomfortable or afraid for your safety. You have the right to report sexual harassment without fearing the consequences.