Discrimination occurs when an individual or a group is treated unfairly or unequally based on characteristics like gender (sex), race, religion, ethnicity, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
Employment discrimination occurs in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination that is based on gender. It violates Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on gender:
- When hiring people
- When promoting, laying off, firing, or changing job terms for (such as compensation or new opportunities) employees
Some states have legislated their own laws against workplace sexual harassment.
West Virginia Human Rights Act
The West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination that is based on gender (sexual harassment). To qualify as sexual harassment, a harasser’s behavior must unreasonably interfere with a victim’s performance at work or it must create an offensive or hostile working environment. There are two main categories of sexual harassment: “quid pro quo” and a hostile work environment.
- Quid pro quo happens when submission to or rejection of sexual harassment is a basis for or condition of employment decisions. The offer might be implied or stated outright.
- A hostile work environment happens when sexual harassment unreasonably interferes with a victim’s work performance because the workplace has become intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
You can find more information online about what West Virginia has done to prevent sexual harassment in workplaces.
Is It Happening to You?
The following examples are everyday, real situations in which an employee or job applicant has been sexually harassed.
- A team leader told me that he can have me moved to his coveted project, if I will go on a date with him. He tells me I look pretty every day.
- One of our customers always tries to touch me when she visits our Ajax office, and she stands very close to me whenever possible. She says I look fit.
- My manager told me not to hire a man because his voice was too high-pitched and gay sounding.
- My office mate uses an image of a nude female as his computer’s screen saver.
- In a job interview, the interviewer repeatedly hinted at the question of whether I have children. Finally, I asked why. She said it was because employees who are parents do not usually like to work as much overtime.
- At every weekly meeting, my coworkers make derogatory comments about a woman’s ability to do our job. I identify as a woman.
For your own benefit, consider researching your employment rights and requesting from your employer information about their effort to prevent sexual harassment.
Getting Legal Help
You have been through enough. You do not have to figure out detailed federal and state laws or the complaint process alone. You can get professional, legal assistance with understanding these laws and with filing a complaint of workplace sexual harassment.