The Thin Gray Line Between Sexual Harassment And Bullying

Do you know the difference between sexual harassment and bullying? There are definitely distinctions and you need to know what they are if you plan to press any kind of sexual harassment charges.

Sexual Harassment is Against Federal Law

While sexual harassment and bullying are two different things, they can often seem similar. In fact, both can occur in the same incident. That's why there are terms like "sexual bullying."

Loosely speaking, sexual harassment is a form of bullying, but it's sexual in nature. However, coercion doesn't have to be involved for it to be sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as harassment "because of that person's sex."

That means that any form of harassment that occurs strictly because of a person's sex is considered sexual harassment. This includes male and female, or same sex harassment. Many states and establishments prohibit sexual harassment. However, the most important distinction between sexual harassment and bullying is that harassment is against federal law.

Bullying Laws Vary or Don't Exist

Bullying, on the other hand, is not a federal crime. Nor is there any kind of uniform law against it. Bullying is the use of force and aggressive intimidation to control others. You can see how it can overlap with some forms of sexual harassment. It's because of this overlap that it's sometimes hard for some people to define what's happening.

An Ambiguous Example

For example, if one man regularly and aggressively harasses another man by calling him a "wimp" because he refuses to do something, it's probably bullying. However, if that one man regularly harasses another man by calling him a derogatory gay slur for the same reason, does it then become sexual harassment?

This is the kind of question that requires a sexual harassment lawyer. If the harassed man claims sexual harassment, then that's what it is. It doesn't matter if the man is actually gay or not. What matters is the bully mentioned sex in his bullying.

Both examples are an outright form of harassment. What makes the second example a case of sexual harassment, and not just bullying, are these points:

  • The use of words that imply sex or sexual orientation
  • The repeated incidents
  • The discomfort of the person harassed

It's really the repeated behavior and discomfort that makes the situation harassment at all. Beyond that, there are many schools of thought as to what constitutes bullying and what makes up sexual harassment.

Speak to a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Unfortunately, there are deeply gray areas that require legal advice. There are things like flirting, taunting, and plain old being rude. In the end, if you even suspect the possibility of sexual harassment, talk it over with a sexual harassment lawyer like Campbell, Dille, Barnett & Smith, P.L.L.C.. They can let you know where you stand and what you can do about it.

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