Sexual harassment

What does Sexual harassment mean?

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, including verbal or physical overtures, towards a woman or a man which are considered unwelcome and unsolicited. The actions do not have to be purely sexual in nature but can include other offensive actions due to a person’s sexuality.

Workers are protected against sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law specifically applies to businesses or employers who have fifteen or more workers. It also applies to local and state government workers, employment agencies, the federal government, and labor organizations.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

Not all comments or teasing of a sexual nature rise to the level of harassment. If the actions are isolated or offhanded and do not specifically create what the law considers a “hostile or offensive work environment,” they will not rise to the level of legal harassment.

Illegal sexual harassment must be behavior which is so pervasive and egregious that, according to the EEOC, “Explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

Who can be a sexual harasser?

Sexual harassers can be men or women, supervisors, co-workers, a client, or a customer. The victim can be the opposite sex or the same sex. The sexual harassment is harassment when it is unwelcome, regardless of whether or not the victim suffers economic injury.

What do I do if I am sexually harassed in the workplace?

If you are the victim of sexual harassment at your place of employment you have rights under U.S. labor laws. First, you can tell the harasser their sexual actions and behaviors are not welcome and if they do not stop you will file a complaint with your employer.

Employers who are notified that sexual harassment has occurred should take the notification seriously and have a complaint mechanism or grievance system available for harassed employees. If the employer does not take appropriate action the employee may want to file a grievance with the EEOC.

Employers who receive complaints about sexual harassment should investigate the complaint and take immediate steps to stop the offensive actions. If the EEOC is notified they will conduct an investigation and review the circumstances of the case and the type of sexual harassment which has potentially occurred.

Harassed employees may also be able to seek legal remedy for sexual harassment if they can prove they have been injured and have suffered loss. Talk to an employment lawyer if you have been sexually harassed at work and need more information about your employment rights.

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