When asked, employees typically agree that it is not acceptable for anyone at their workplace to be treated differently than others. Many people assume they will be protected from unsafe situations, unfair treatment, and nonparity at work. The reality is that protections may be in place and your employer may have the best intentions of keeping their employees safe and treating each person with dignity, but discrimination still happens. Although employers who create an environment of equality and respect cannot prevent individual harassers from bullying coworkers, these employers generally have clearer policies against discrimination and procedures for addressing it. 

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination and it is illegal in Vermont. This type of discrimination singles out individuals because of their gender, and is defined by unwanted gender-based attention. It may be verbal, such as stereotyping comments about a coworker’s abilities based on gender or sexually suggestive remarks. It may be physical, such as unwanted touching or grabbing or obscene gestures. It may be visual, such as inappropriate images on a calendar hanging in a coworker’s office or a naked photograph of a coworker sent in a company email. For example, if you are a student working a summer internship in Bradford, and a manager suggests that you can get a permanent job at some point if you are “more friendly” to him, it is probably sexual harassment. If you have been exposed to this type of behavior, it is in your best interest to figure out your rights. One resource is the Green Mountain state’s website, which summarizes both state and federal laws that protect workers. Another resource is a legal professional who specializes in workplace sexual harassment.

Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act 

The Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of gender (“sex”), sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, and other qualities. The law applies to every Vermont employer, regardless of how many employees they have, and it applies to every employee, including independent contractors, interns, and volunteers. 

Sexual Harassment Prevention Law

Vermont’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Law requires all employers to adopt a written policy about the prevention of sexual harassment, to provide employees with the policy and any updates to it, to adopt and post a procedure for reporting sexual harassment, and to adopt a procedure for investigating sexual harassment. 

What If You Have Been Sexually Harassed

If you suspect you have been sexually harassed at work, you probably have. At first, victims may question whether it happened, imagine it was a one-off, or brush it aside in hopes it won’t happen again. Unfortunately, sexual harassment often continues and sometimes escalates. You do not have to accept it, and you do not have to quit your job. Experts in employment law can help you understand your rights and guide you through the complaint process if needed.

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