Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal and is punishable by law, but did you know that it is also a type of discrimination? Sexual harassment is considered to be a type of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and there is a branch of the government that deals explicitly with discrimination called U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
How do you know if you’re experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace? As per the definition of the EEOC, if an individual’s rejection of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical sexual conduct affects their employment status, their work performance, or creates a hostile or offensive work environment for the employee, then it is considered as sexual harassment.
Two types of sexual harassment occur in the workplace:
1. Quid Pro Quo – This type of harassment is more easily seen and is what people think about when they hear the term sexual harassment in the workplace. Quid pro quo means that a person of higher authority than the victim requests sexual favors or wants to start a sexual relationship in exchange for the victim not getting fired or punished. Sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or a raise also fall under this type of sexual harassment.
2. Hostile Work Environment – This type of harassment has more to do with subtler behavior which does not directly ask someone for sexual favors. Photographs, jokes, and threats that are sexual in nature and other inappropriate sexual conduct are considered to be of this type of harassment. These behaviors should be prevalent enough that it creates a hostile workplace for the victim, hence the name.
Some of the most common misconceptions about sexual harassment are false, and you should take some time to know these. The widespread belief that only women can suffer from sexual harassment is wrong, both men and women can be suffering from sexual harassment. It is also untrue that sexual harassment only happens between people of the opposite sex; the law has recognized that illegal sexual harassment can occur between people of the same sex. Lastly, sexual harassment is not exclusive to someone with a higher authority; it can also be from your coworkers.
Now that you’ve identified that you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, here are the next steps that you should take:
1. Check your employee handbook. – Employers usually have an employee handbook which tells you the appropriate actions inside the workplace. Most of these handbooks have specific instructions on what to do when you experience sexual harassment in the office; you should follow these procedures when filing a complaint.
2. Document your experience. – Make sure to take note of as much detail as possible; write down the time, place, and date where the incident of sexual harassment happened, what was said and done, and take note if there are any witnesses to what happened.
3. Speak up. – Talk to your supervisor. Tell them about the situation and the steps you’ve already taken to address it. Talk to the company’s HR department or the people responsible for workplace investigations.
4. Talk to your support system. – Suffering from sexual harassment can be very traumatic. If you feel comfortable opening up about the situation, talk to your family or friends about it.
5. Take your complaint to the government. – This step only needs to be done when your employer doesn’t take action on your claim. You can contact your state’s human rights or civil rights enforcement agency or the EEOC to file a complaint. They will investigate your claim and negotiate with your employer. If the government agency cannot resolve your complaint but determines that it is valid, they will issue a “right to sue” letter which means that you can bring your case to court.
Need help with a sexual harassment case? Contact us at Hogan Injury for legal advice.
None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.