Sexual harassment is one of the most subtle forms of discrimination. Just as your employer cannot make adverse employment decisions due to gender identity, race, or sexual orientation, one's sex is equally protected.
Victims of sexual harassment can face different forms of retaliation, such as:
- Receive a demotion
- Get passed over for promotions
- Receive lower pay
- Lose their job
Oftentimes, sexual harassment leaves victims unable to perform their jobs due to their hostile environment. Feeling uncomfortable or threatened is an understatement.
A good understanding of sexual harassment is necessary to protect yourself against this kind of discrimination. This section contains many helpful articles that explain:
- Different types of sexual harassment in the workplace
- Procedures in place for bringing a complaint based on sexual harassment
Federal law defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. More specifically, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
These actions or behaviors often interfere with an individual's work performance or create an offensive work environment. This is why several anti-discrimination laws exist to protect against workplace harassment.
Sexual harassment claims have been traditionally separated into two types of sexual harassment, though the line between the two has blurred in recent years:
- Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or one in an authority position seeks a sexual relationship in exchange for favors such as promotions or raises or threatens to punish or fire the employee if they fail to respond to advances.
- Hostile work environment harassment occurs through demeaning or sexual images, jokes, or threats in the workplace. Such conduct must be pervasive to create an offensive work environment where no reasonable person could work.
There are informal and formal steps victims can take to help ensure victims receive the protections that sexual harassment laws provide.
The first step in most sexual harassment cases is to make clear statements to the harasser, regardless of whether the harasser is a co-worker, manager, or non-employee, like a customer. Let them know that the harassing behavior they are engaging in is offensive.
If this does not result in a change in the offensive conduct or a corrective action, review the company's sexual harassment policy and procedure for handling a sexual harassment claim. The policy may direct you to Human Resources, your manager, or another department.
If a policy exists, follow the procedure carefully to report harassment. If the company has no policy for sexual harassment, bring your complaint about the alleged harasser to your immediate supervisor. If the supervisor is the offending party, make a report to their immediate supervisor. Regardless, it is crucial to keep a record of the harassing conduct, your complaints, and the communications about the harassment.
If you cannot resolve the harassment complaint through your employer's internal procedures, you should proceed to file reports with state and federal agencies. Normally, this involves contacting your local EEOC office. If the EEOC cannot resolve the situation, they will file a lawsuit on your behalf or issue a "right to sue" letter, which you can use in a civil lawsuit. You may end up qualifying for compensatory or punitive damages.
Sexual Harassment Is Not a Condition of Employment – Get Legal Advice Today
Are you a victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault? Meeting with an employment lawyer can help you understand what fair employment looks like and what federal and state laws are in place to protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help you file an employment action.
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