Most people are familiar with the physical actions and verbal comments that can constitute workplace harassment. Sometimes, though, harassment can take a third form: visual harassment. What does visual workplace harassment look like, and how can workers respond if they experience this mistreatment?
What does visual harassment look like in a workplace?
Just as verbal or physical harassment forces workers into uncomfortable situations, visual harassment forces them to view things that are inappropriate for a work environment. Instances of visual harassment may include:
- Exposing genitals or other body parts to the other person, whether in person or via digital messages
- Unwanted and offensive staring or gestures
- Sending explicit or offensive images or videos to another person
- Displaying offensive images or messages in a work area, including intentionally displaying them in the background of a video call or using these images as a background or screen saver on a computer
- Wearing offensive t-shirts, including those with sexual content or racist images
Even if not targeted directly at a worker, these unwanted visuals can make it difficult for workers to do their job, also known as a hostile work environment.
What can workers do if they experience visual harassment?
Documentation is often key for those experiencing visual harassment in the workplace. This may include saving offensive messages, photographing or taking a screen capture of any inappropriate images and writing down the details of incidents that involved staring or gestures. Not only does this documentation provide support for your complaint, but it can also form the foundation of legal action if your employer does not take steps to stop this mistreatment.