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Sexual harassment in the workplace is not just inappropriate, it’s illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace as long as the employer has more than 15 employees. Because it is a federal law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government agency, is responsible for enforcing it.
There are two types of sexual harassment that may occur at work: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo, which translates to mean “this for that” in Latin, occurs when an employer offers an employee some sort of job benefit in exchange for a sexual act. For example, if an employer tells you in order to keep your job or receive a promotion, you must submit to his sexual advances, this is quid pro quo harassment.
Sexual harassment is also illegal when it creates a hostile work environment. This occurs when the sexually harassing behaviors have become so aggressive or widespread that an employee is unable to perform the duties of his or her job.
Anyone within the organization can file a hostile work environment case, whether he or she is directly or indirectly a victim. For example, an employee who is constantly being harassed by her supervisor to the point where she cannot perform her job duties is a direct victim and can file a hostile work environment claim. However, an employee who frequently witnesses another employee being sexually harassed can also file a claim, even though she has never been directly harassed.
In order to file a hostile work environment claim, the behavior must occur repeatedly. Infrequent behavior, even if it is offensive, inappropriate and sexual in nature, is not legally considered sexual harassment.
Employees who have the courage to report their employers for sexual harassment either internally or to the EEOC often face retaliation at work. Retaliation is illegal, so if you can prove your employer has taken adverse action against you because of your involvement with a sexual harassment complaint, you may be able to hold your employer liable.
Employers may be required to pay sexual harassment victims back pay or compensatory damages in cases where the sexual harassment caused severe emotional or mental anguish. If your employer fired or demoted you because you refused his sexual advances, the courts could require your employer to reinstate you or offer you the position you deserve.
Sexual harassment can occur to anyone in any type of workplace. Although sexual harassment victims are often thought of as female, anybody can be a victim regardless of his or her gender.
Employers have a responsibility to be proactive and train their employees on the dangers and consequences of sexual harassment. They should also have a sexual harassment policy in place that clearly states how employees should report inappropriate behavior and how every claim will be investigated.
Sexual harassment can be emotionally taxing, so you should never handle a sexual harassment lawsuit without the help of an experienced employment law attorney. The qualified team of attorneys at Shegerian Conniff can help you seek justice against your employer without affecting your career. Contact us today to speak to our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys.