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How sexual innuendos can create hostile work environments

Most employees are aware of overt acts of sexual harassment. Unwanted touching of another or making crude jokes of a sexual nature are examples of overt harassment. These types of behaviors can cause some employees to feel uncomfortable and may even lead to the creation of a hostile work environment for those affected employees.

Perhaps a much lesser-known type of sexual harassment is the use of sexual innuendos. A sexual innuendo is typically a word or phrase that has a thinly-veiled hidden meaning of a sexual nature. The famous English author Charles Dickens was notorious for his use of sexual innuendos in his writings. For example, in Dickens’ book “Oliver Twist” he makes reference to a character known as Bates as Master Bates when also alluding to that character’s proclivity for masturbation. It’s easy to see how some sexual harassers could easily use similar phrases and wordplay to convey hidden sexual ideas.

Sexual innuendos are the preferred tools for some workplace sexual harassers who believe that they are too crafty to get caught engaging in overt acts of harassment. These individuals often use cunning phrases that are designed to infer sexual meanings without actually coming right out and saying something more directly to their intended targets.

In a previous article on our website blog, we discussed how even subtle actions can sometimes create hostile work environments when viewed in the context in which they occur. In some cases, the circumstances surrounding the actions of a sexual harasser are more important than what is clearly perceivable. Just as long as that subtle form of harassment is directed at a member of a protected class.

That’s why it’s important to consult with an attorney experienced with New Jersey sexual-harassment laws if you believe someone is using sexual innuendos to secretly infer things of a sexual nature to you. An attorney can examine the totality of the circumstances surrounding your particular case and determine whether sufficient grounds exist to move forward with a sexual harassment claim.

Based in Nutley, our law firm has been providing legal services to clients throughout New Jersey since 1969. Whether you are a victim of sexual harassment or an employer seeking assistance in preventing that type of behavior in your workplace, our law firm is committed to providing clients with experienced legal advocacy.



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