Friday, 06 July 2012 18:29
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination, and is therefore governed by civil rights statutes. It is illegal under both federal and state law. The most common place sexual harassment occurs is in the workplace, but a landlord or superintendent can also sexually harass you.
An employee is never required to accept unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. Basic rights include the right to dignity and respect among your coworkers and supervisors. You do not have to stand by and take it when you are in a situation where these rights are violated.
What is Sexual Harassment?
The EEOC has defined sexual harassment in its guidelines as ‘unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature’. The key phrase is unwelcome. The term is subjective. What that means is that you may invite and encourage sexual conduct, or you may discourage it. You may encourage it at one point, and then indicate that it is no longer welcomed. It is your decision, and your decision may change.
Sexual harassment can include:
- Physical sexual assault. (Actual or attempted)
- Unwanted inappropriate sexual comments.
- Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
- Unwanted exposure to sexual material or innuendos.
- Nonverbal actions that may be interpreted as sexual. (Invading personal space, following, etc.)
- Physical contact that may be interpreted as sexual. (neck rubs, hugs, brushing up against person).
- Being forced to use sex to get or keep your job or promotion.
The Supreme Court has divided sexual harassment into two categories:
- quid pro quo (this for that) is sexual submission as a term or condition of employment
- hostile environment harassment is conduct which unwelcomed sexual conduct creates an environment that the victim finds hostile or intimidating.
What do I do if I think I am a victim of sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is never permissible, but your remedies are different depending on whom your employer is. You may have a cause of action against the actual person, or your company, or both. Keep records of the occurrences and any possible witnesses.
You do not need to accept this behavior in order to keep your job or home. State and federal laws are in place to protect you and provide you with compensation. An experienced employment and labor law attorney will be able to review the facts and inform you of the possible actions you may take.