While employers are urged to implement a stringent harassment policy to protect their employees and themselves, many fail to do so. An employer that does not have a policy in place ought to refer to the ban on sexual discrimination laid out in VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There are other laws that can make the lack of sexual harassment policy irrelevant if the employer harasses employees or if one of their employees harasses another employee(s).

EEOC and OSHA guidelines

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the watchdog for sexual harassment and discrimination complaints, the current law applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Therefore, the size of the company can be an issue when it comes to matters of sexual harassment. In some cases the EEOC may not decide to act even if discrimination is determined but the number of employees is less than 15.

As per sexual harassment lawyers, there are two forms of workplace sexual harassment. One is deemed to have occurred when an employee refuses unwanted sexual advances as a result of which the working situation changes. The other type is when a hostile work environment is created because of the employee’s sex and he or she is forced to work in an abusive working environment. In some cases, OSHA or the US Occupational Safety & Health and Administration may be involved.

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OSHA does not consider harassment always as a safety hazard and reviews complaints on an individual basis. The employer may be held responsible for not providing a safe working environment if the unwelcome advances of a co-worker or supervisor towards an employee who may be a machine operator distracts the employee to the extent that he or she is vulnerable to injury.

According to sexual harassment attorneys, it is important for employees to note that their employer cannot take any action if they file a complaint with OSHA. It is only not likely that the EEOC or OSHA will act on a complaint if the sexual harassment is a random unsociable act. The agencies focus on harassment of a continuous nature and not one time only incidents.

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Complaints judged on merit

Filing a complaint with the EEOC or OSHA or letting the news out on social networks does have its consequences for employees. However, that should never be a deterrent to file a complaint as long as you have enough evidence and reason to. The key is to have proof if you plan to file a formal complaint with human resources. Sexual harassment lawyers suggest that any employee must proceed with caution before filing a complaint and discuss the matter with a legal expert.

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Possible penalties  

Nevertheless, employers who are found liable for sexual harassment face severe penalties and can be held accountable for compensatory damages depending on the severity and frequency of harassment. They can also be sued for pain and suffering, emotional damages, and pecuniary damages that cover loss of wages due to termination, counseling fees, and other related damages.