Sexual harassment is a problem in many U.S. workplaces. Sexual harassment takes several different forms and the harassment may be by a co-worker, a supervisor or boss.
According to the definition by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) sexual harassment is any form of “unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person's job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Sexual harassment is illegal in U.S. workplaces. Victims of sexual harassment at work have the right to take legal action against whoever is harassing them.
Both state and federal laws prohibit sexual harassment, as defined by the EEOC. If you have been subject to sexual harassment at work and have tried to take steps to stop it without success, you are advised to talk to an employment lawyer about your legal options.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is not necessarily experienced by women alone. Often the victims of sexual harassment are in a difficult or dependent position with respect to the person who is harassing them. For example, it may be that they are told that their jobs or advancement is dependent on them allowing sexual advances of some type to occur.
This is called quid pro quo sexual harassment and is quite common. Another example would be if an employee may be invited in to her / his boss’s office and it is suggested that if they want their probationary period extended as ‘permanent’ they must accept to provide sexual favors.
Sexual harassment may be experienced by men from women or other men and be experienced by women by men or other women. To be able to initiate a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, there only needs to be proof of a single case of harassment, such as a kiss or grope demanded as a condition for getting some favor at work such as keeping your job.
Actions Considered Sexual Harassment
The actual harassment action may be any one or combination of the following:
- touching, fondling or other unwanted physical contact including rape;
- cornering or invading personal space intentionally;
- online communication e.g. by email, bulletin boards, social media;
- offensive jokes or sexual innuendo;
- commenting on someone’s sex life or appearance in front of others;
- spreading sexual rumors around the work place or publicly posting suggestive pictures;
- propositioning e.g. continually being asked to go out on a date ;
- being taken photos of in a rest room or changing room;
- giving unsolicited gifts on a persistent basis.
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help
There are several steps you can take if you have been the victim of sexual harassment. If you have been harassed by a co-worker, you should ask them to stop, either in person or through email or by letter.
If the harassment persists, you should attempt to take it up with a superior. If the harassment is by someone in authority such as a manager, supervisor or your employer, you may want to see a lawyer as soon as possible.
Take notes and make a record of any instances of harassment: dates, times and what happened and what you did about if you could do anything. This evidence will be useful if you intend to take legal action against either the co-worker who has been harassing you or someone in authority in which case your lawyer may suggest that you file a claim against your employer.
Sexual harassment in any workplace where there are more than 15 employees is covered by federal legislation, specifically Title VII of the Equal Rights Act. State sexual workplace harassment laws cover these cases as well as sexual harassment that occurs in smaller workplaces.
Your lawyer will have dealt with cases of sexual harassment before and will know whether you have good grounds for taking legal action. Complete the Free Case Evaluation today to be put in touch with an attorney that handles workplace sexual harassment cases in your area.