What is the Difference between Workplace Harassment and Sexual Harassment?

When you find yourself facing harassment at work, knowing the nature of the harassment can often be the first step toward resolution. At Moore Ruddell LLP, our Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers understand that the distinctions between harassment and sexual harassment may not always be clear, and we’re here to help you make sense of it.


Harassment refers to any form of unwanted behavior in the professional setting that isn’t rooted in the individual’s gender. This can include:

  • Racist comments, jokes, nicknames.
  • Derisive remarks about another’s religious beliefs or lack of them.
  • Inappropriate statement about another’s skin color or ethnicity.
  • Remarks or mocking about a co-worker’s disability.
  • Offensive statements, verbal or written, about ethnic, racial, or religious stereotypes.
  • Derogatory comments about another’s age, especially an older person.

When this type of conduct results in a hostile work environment or leads to adverse employment decisions due to an individual’s refusal to endure such behavior, it becomes unlawful.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, in contrast, comprises unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. This may involve:

  • Unsolicited sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Hostile work environment due to sex or pregnancy
  • Any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Like its non-sexual counterpart, sexual harassment is illegal when it culminates in a hostile work environment or unfavorable employment decisions.

Remote Work Environments

Despite the recent rise in remote work, it’s essential to know that your rights as an employee remain the same. Just as in traditional work environments, sexual harassment in remote work environments is illegal. Inappropriate behavior can include:

  • Offensive comments during virtual meetings
  • Offensive messages
  • Any unsolicited behavior of a sexual nature conducted online.

All of these are equally unacceptable and constitute sexual harassment.

Differences between Harassment and Sexual Harassment

While both harassment and sexual harassment aim to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, their nature fundamentally varies. harassment usually involves behavior tied to a legally protected characteristic such as race, religion, or age. Conversely, sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual behavior.

In terms of legal recourse and potential outcomes, there can be distinct differences too, depending on the nature and severity of the harassment.

Support from Moore Ruddell LLP

In the complex landscape of workplace harassment, the Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyers at Moore Ruddell LLP are adept at handling both types of cases. We provide comprehensive advice, personalized representation, and the assurance that you don’t have to face this alone. Your rights matter, and we’re here to protect them.

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