Being faced with sexual harassment at work is difficult. It can interfere with your ability to perform your job at best, and, at worst, it can result in a toxic environment where you do not feel safe. Despite this, many incidents of sexual harassment go unreported or under-reported. Victims may not report it because of concern about lost income, job security, or future career growth.
It is exactly this lack of reporting though that allows sexual harassment to continue to plague workplaces. When infractions are not dealt with, a harasser may become emboldened by the lack of redress—and increase the intensity or frequency of their harassing behavior. What’s more, a lack of reported cases can indicate that no problem exists, when it actually does. This sends a wrong message to employees, employers, and the lawmakers who are responsible for the passage of employment laws.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
According to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that is based on gender (sex). Sexual harassment can be verbal, physical, or visual, and it can be overt or subtle. A victim may be any gender and a harasser may be any gender. Sexual harassment can occur between people with equal power (coworker to coworker, supervisor to supervisor) and between people with unequal power (manager to employee, owner to employee).
There are two types of sexual harassment complaints: “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment.” To be successful, any workplace sexual harassment complaint, from Jackson to Acme, must prove that one of these conditions existed. According to Merriam-Webster:
- “Quid pro quo” is “sexual harassment in which the satisfaction of sexual demands is made the condition of job benefits or continued employment or is used as the basis for employment decisions regarding the individual.”
- A “hostile environment” is “sexual harassment that has the effect of unreasonably interfering with a victim’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment that affects the victim’s psychological well-being.”
Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act
In 1965, the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender. Specifically, the law prohibits employers from refusing to hire, from firing, from refusing to promote, from demoting, and from discriminating against a qualified person because of gender, race, color, age, ancestry, or nationality. In particular, this law relates to compensation and to the terms, conditions, or privileges of a job. It applies to all public and private employers who have two or more employees.
Note that this law does not require employers to train employees and management on the prevention of sexual harassment. However, the state recommends it.
If You Are a Victim
If you are a victim of sexual harassment at work, it is important to know your rights. Information about Wyoming and federal employment laws is available online, and legal experts can help you through the complaint process.