Define Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
How Is Sexual Harassment Defined?
At its base level, sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination in the workplace. What does this look like? Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, jokes, comments, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The uninvited conduct can be communicated in person, through phone calls, via emails, or by text messages. The perpetrator may also instigate unwelcome physical contact by touching, petting, or purposely brushing up against the person. Co-workers, supervisors, and third-party vendors can all be held liable for harassing or offensive conduct.
What Does “Unwelcome” Conduct Mean?
Whether or not the conduct is "unwelcome" depends on the person to whom the behavior is directed. Courts will review the particular facts and circumstances of each case to determine whether it was reasonably clear to the harasser that the conduct was not welcome. They recognize that victims may sometimes be coerced into going along with the harassment, especially by a supervisor because they are afraid of being punished at work or fired from their job if they complain.
What Is the Difference Between the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?
- "Quid pro quo" is Latin for "this for that." This type of harassment occurs when submitting to or rejecting unwelcome sexual conduct is made the basis for employment decisions, for example, when a boss requires sexual favors to grant an employee a promotion.
- "Hostile work environment" harassment occurs when unwelcome verbal or physical conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual's ability to work, or when it creates an offensive, intimidating, or hostile work environment.
When Can You File a Lawsuit Over Sexual Harassment?
According to the EEOC, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is legally actionable when:
- Submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of employment
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
Can I Be Fired or Demoted if I Report Sexual Harassment?
The answer to this is an emphatic, No. Federal and state laws make it illegal to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise "retaliate" against applicants and employees who report sexual harassment. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain about discrimination on the job, file a charge with the EEOC, or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or lawsuit.
What Should I Do if I Am Being Sexually Harassed?
If you are being sexually harassed at work, you should record all the times you had to field unwelcome sexual advances or tolerate inappropriate behavior. A detailed journal, documentary evidence, and credible witness testimony are critical to proving a claim. Report your concerns to supervisors and "up the chain of command" to management. Seek recourse outside the workplace by filing a complaint with the EEOC. For additional legal assistance, speak to an experienced attorney who can pursue your claim before the EEOC and represent your best interests at trial or in mediation.
Is There a Time Limit to File a Sexual Harassment Claim?
Yes there is a time limit to file a claim. Victims generally need to file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days from the day the harassment took place. Under some circumstances, the 180-day deadline may be extended by state law, but in most cases, failure to file within the deadline may bar your right to relief.
Do I Have to File a Charge With the EEOC to file a sexual harassment claim?
Yes, you need to file a charge with the EEOC. Victims alleging harassment must first file a formal complaint with the EEOC or the state's fair employment agency before filing a lawsuit in federal court.
What Happens After I File a sexual harassment Complaint?
Upon receiving the complaint, the EEOC will recommend mediation, where the parties are encouraged to find a mutually acceptable solution. This can take less than 3 months. If mediation does not work, the EEOC will forward the charge to an investigator, who will investigate the complaint. If the investigation reveals a violation of law, the EEOC will issue a "right-to-sue."
Why Hire an Attorney to Represent Me in a Sexual Harassment Claim?
An experienced harassment attorney can help you present the strongest possible case to the EEOC. The lawyers at Phillips & Associates know the law, and have extensive experience litigating sexual harassment claims. We have the expertise and resources to aggressively advocate for your rights at every turn, from filing the complaint. through mediation and conciliation. We can also pursue your claim in court. Because the process involves various negotiations and appeals at the administrative and trial levels, a skilled harassment attorney can protect your rights and help you achieve the most favorable outcome in your case. Consultation is free and there is no fee unless we recover. Call and speak to us today.
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