The term “sexual harassment” was coined by Cornell Scholars in 1975 with regard to the widespread problem of negative workplace interaction caused by harassment and discrimination from employers against women at that time. This formed the base to build upon for Attorney Catharine MacKinnon to push forward the legal claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as workplace discrimination. The protection under Title VII gave women an avenue to sue for damages under the law, and applies to both sexes in current legal claims. Then came Anita Hill, who testified against Clarence Thomas for his discussions of sex, bestiality, and pornography when she worked with him, leading to an increase in sexual-harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that resulted in positive court settlements to victims.
It has been forty-five 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. Victims have been further empowered, as seen in the “Me Too” movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault that was brought to the forefront in October 2017, even though that movement began in 2006. More recent protections against sexual harassment are supported by the 2020 Supreme Court of the United States ruling in favor of gay, lesbian, and transgender employee rights from discrimination based on sex under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sexual Harassment Law in .
The law addresses sexual harassment in the form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature through:
- Quid Pro Quo. Authoritative figures/bosses in the workplace demand, or require sexual acts for preferential treatment, or to avoid punitive action – employment decisions made because an individual has submitted to, or rejected the negative behaviors.
- A Hostile Work Environment in . A boss or employer does not remedy a work environment where sexually inappropriate behavior is present affecting work performance and creating intimidating, hostile and abusive work environments.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government.
If there is some reason that a victim is not protected under Title VII language, a civil rights, personal injury, or employment law attorney in may be able to offer another means toward compensation when sexual harassment causes harm and damage to an employee.
They can also make certain that the nature of the work-related incident is one of a civil nature versus that of a criminal nature. Sexual harassment is usually remedied in a civil action, but sexual assault, where unwanted sexual contact using force, coercion, or incapacitation occurs is a criminal offense. If a victim of sexual harassment in has suffered unwanted touching of a sexual nature, they should contact the police to initiate action against a person who should be charged with sexual assault. They should also call a sexual harassment lawyer in .
Identifying sexual harassment in .
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment, when this conduct 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. Sexual harassment is situational and can occur in many circumstances including :
- Those where either victim or harasser may be of either sex, but not necessarily the opposite sex.
- Harassers are often a victim’s supervisor, employer’s agent, a supervisor from a different department, co-workers or people who are not employed, but are present in the work area.
- Anyone negatively affected by offensive sexual harassment conduct can act against it.
- Unlawful sexual harassment in can occur without impact to finances, or firing of a victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
Examples of sexual harassment in .
- Uninvited physical contact.
- Sexual assault.
- Displaying sexually explicit media, or objects.
- Intimidation through rude remarks regarding appearance that are gender-related.
- Offering promotions, or special treatment for sexual favors.
- Understated flirting or sexually suggestive conversations that are constant.
- Threatening continued employment, or ability to advance the corporate channels unless sexual favors are given.
- Sexual jokes, comments or defamatory statements about co-workers that are sexually explicit can make a work environment uncomfortable.
Address and report sexual harassment in .
According to an EEOC task force report, almost one third of the approximately 90,000 charges received by EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment. This includes, among other things, charges of unlawful harassment on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), race, disability, age, ethnicity/national origin, color, and religion. Victims of sex-based harassment often deny, or tone down an egregious situation to avoid, or ignore the negative behavior. An estimated three out of four employees who have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work do not even report it to their supervisor, or human resources department. The concern that the conduct by a person who may be controlling their work activities, including promotion and upward mobility outweighs inaction to a reported claim, concerns of transferred blame to employee, and social/ professional stigmatization and retaliation.
The victim should directly inform the harasser that their conduct is unwelcome and insist that it stops if they are not afraid. Employer policies should be referenced and a victim should use any employer complaint mechanism, or grievance system available. The more information contained in the complaint including proof of the allegations where possible will give strength to claims taken to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A positive settlement award may be the result of a strong case presented by experienced legal counsel.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers in are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint, or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains. They should also develop and maintain standard operating work policies to support methods that deter sexual harassment in .
Reducing workplace sexual harassment in through leadership.
Leadership and workplace culture may have positive impact on the reduction of sexual harassment in the workplace through harassment prevention efforts that include standard operating policies with outlined requirements of reporting, maintaining confidentiality and professionalism. Committing to a respectful, diverse, and inclusive employee cohort and ensuring that anti-harassment efforts are given priority in the workplace. Management training must be geared toward reduction of workplace harassment versus the consequences of legal action and liability concerns and costs to employers.
Supervisors and other responsible department personnel who observe, are informed of, or reasonably suspect incidents of possible sexual harassment should immediately report such incidents and initiate prompt investigation. Supervisors should take effective measures to ensure no further apparent, or alleged harassment of the victim occurs, pending completion of an EEOC investigation, or other legal action. Employers should attempt to maintain privacy of the alleged victim and harasser while a complaint is being investigated. Necessary steps should also be taken to ensure that the employee victim is protected from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment in compliance with federal laws.
employer sexual harassment policies.
- All employees should be made aware of employer’s policy on sexual harassment from the first day of employment.
- Make sure the organization has an objective party that can accept a sexual harassment complaint in the event a person cannot go to their immediate supervisor.
- Investigate the complaint.
- Talk with employee who has made the complaint and advise that they should follow up if there is any form of retaliation.
- Assure the accused that an unbiased examination of the facts will occur.
- Interview witnesses to the harassment action.
- Interview the accused harasser.
- Consult with human resources and legal counsel.
- Reprimand or terminate the employee with notice in their employee file.
Employer Retaliation in .
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
Sexual discrimination venues in .
Sexual harassment can occur at work, at school, at church, and any place where there is interaction between human beings, but harassment in the workplace 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 someone is discriminated against for being male or female, and for being pregnant, with regard to work environment, gaining promotions, crossing the 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.
Making a claim for sexual harassment in .
Claims of sexual harassment can include individuals who have been affected by workplace sexual harassment, or third parties who have witnessed the harassment, due to the negative emotional impact it has on them. Sexual harassment claims in cannot be made if the sexual behavior was welcomed, or occurred with mutual consent. Many corporate entities and universities have designated policies where workplace dating is prohibited or legal documents need to be executed to keep the workplace from being involved in any complicated litigation between the parties.
Valid claims in.
Sexual harassment claims in 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. Sexual 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 recourse in .
Victims of sexual harassment in have legal options against sexual harassment, and seeking legal counsel is the first thing a victim should do after reporting the abuse through the proper channels at a place of employment, or at school, or wherever the incident took place; if there are procedural guidelines set up that must be followed.
Avenues for reporting sexual harassment in .
- Direct reporting to the managing director of the harasser, and the human resources office.
- Requesting mediation as an informal solution to resolve the office problems utilizing the services of a trained mediator who may be able to facilitate communications between the parties in dispute. An employer is obligated to assist in this process if an employee requests this method to resolve the work-related sexual harassment.
- Grievance procedures. Many employers have policies to address grievances on equal employment opportunity matters to be kept in house regarding alleged sexual harassment, depending upon the type of employment relationship between employees and the employer.
- All employees working in the United States have the option of making a formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the alleged sexual harassment in the workplace, but it must be initiated within forty-five days of the alleged incident and follow all other requirements under the law. If an employee does not wish to proceed with any other steps before contacting EEOC, they do not need to and may seek alternate professional counsel for guidance.
See legal counsel.
If you, or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment in , or related sexual assault in, seek out a sexual harassment attorney in for guidance toward legal actions that will remedy the situation.