“Sexual Harassment” Background.
While teaching a class regarding “women at work” at Cornell in 1975, a feminist scholar named Lin Farley, through her interaction with students and hearing the many reported incidents at work they experienced, she came up with the term “sexual harassment” to refer to this widespread problem. Previous to that time, the now openly frowned upon behavior was so common in the workplace, it did not have a name. Attorney and Legal Scholar Catharine MacKinnon pushed forward the legal claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as workplace discrimination giving women an avenue to sue for damages under the law. It has been almost forty years since the “sexual harassment” label was introduced to the public acknowledging the extent of the damage sexual harassment has caused in the workplace and beyond, as seen in the “Me Too” movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault that began in October 2017.
Northampton, Massachusetts is home to Smith College, one of the first places where women were taught to speak out about discrimination and harassment. Smith presently maintains an environment that is free of sexual and gender-based harassment. Many colleges allowed romantic or sexual relationships between students and faculty or staff, but Smith recognizes that there is a power imbalance between faculty, staff and students, regardless of age, and does not condone this practice. Schools have experienced sexual harassment among students, and employees as we see in the news of teachers having relationships with middle school students and beyond. School children, beginning around puberty and continuing on through high school and college, as young adults, have had occasions of teasing, touching, violation of their person, and defaming their reputation, as in the case at Smith Vocational High School, leading to depression and even suicide in some cases. Students in a Northampton Middle School protested against sexual harassment and in support of the “Me Too” movement, as did Northampton High School. These are some local reactions in support of the changes that need to be made so that all people, regardless of gender and status in their social situation, do not feel intimidated at the hands of another person making them unsteady in their path to a successful life.
Sexual harassment can occur at work, at school, at church, and any place where there is interaction between human beings. Harassment is a form of employment discrimination and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the American Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Sexual discrimination is when you are discriminated against for being male or female, and for being pregnant, with regard to work environment, gaining promotions, gender salary gap and reductions of benefits based on gender. The discriminators in these cases are usually managers, bosses, and supervisors in places of employment, although sometimes co-workers discriminate as well.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is when someone forces unwelcome advances on you through physical contact of a sexual nature or makes requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature and is punishable by law. Both harassment and sexual harassment are discriminatory, but the latter is sexual in nature. Claims of sexual harassment can include individuals who have been affected by workplace sexual harassment, even third parties who have witnessed it, due to the negative emotional impact it has on them. Sexual harassment claims are only valid if the sexual behavior exhibited is unwelcomed, and it can affect both men and women in the workplace, without relevance to positions held at a place of employment. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision, such as a victim being fired, transferred or demoted. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
Legal options against sexual harassment.
You do have legal options against sexual harassment, and seeking legal counsel is the first thing you should do after reporting the abuse through the proper channels at your job, or at school, or wherever the incident took place if there are procedural guidelines set up that you must follow. Once the particulars of your case are laid out, the attorneys at DinsmoreStark, can assist you with civil or criminal action to provide you with damages, and even personal injury that you sustained due to the sexual harassment.
Dinsmore Stark, Attorneys at Law
60 Masonic St., Ste. E
Northampton, MA 01060