Abramson Labor Group – Sexual Harassment
Discrimination is defined as unfair or prejudiced treatment of people based on their gender, race, age, sexual, or religious beliefs. When a business or employer has more than 15 employees, they are bound by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII protects men and women against unfair treatment in the workplace, college/university, labor union, or employment agency. If they are mistreated or made to feel uncomfortable, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is there to enforce the law.
One aspect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a situation where someone else’s behavior, be it remarks or physical actions, make you feel uncomfortable or threatened. In cases of sexual harassment, your harasser can be a man or woman. The victim doesn’t have to be the one who feels harassed, it can be someone who witnessed it.
Employers have to define and train employees to understand what sexual harassment is and how it can affect the victim, witnesses, and the company. A sexual harassment policy should be drafted and given to every employee. If they have questions or concerns, they should be instructed on who to go to. Instructions on filing a sexual harassment claim should be made clear.
Types of Sexual Harassment and Their Examples
How can you tell if it’s just a joke or if it’s sexual harassment? Sexual harassment comes in two forms in the workplace. These are the situations that people face and don’t always know what to do next.
A Hostile Work Environment is one of the types of sexual harassment. In this situation, the victim is continually harassed through a person’s behavior or verbiage that they do not feel capable or able to do their job. Anyone can be the harasser. It can be a boss, a co-worker, a delivery person, a customer, or a contractor. If it happens in the workplace and makes you so uncomfortable that you cannot work, you’re a victim of this type of sexual harassment.
As an example of a Hostile Work Environment situation, say the front desk person signs for packages each day. The delivery person has been making sexual comments or stroking her arm while she signs the form to accept the delivery. Those actions leave her feeling extremely uncomfortable. She has a strong urge to be away from her desk at the time those packages usually arrive, but it’s part of her job. She knows that she looks bad if she’s always in the bathroom at that hour. She’s being sexually harassed by that delivery person.
The other type of sexual harassment is Quid Pro Quo harassment. In this type of sexual harassment, the person in power in the workplace suggests that to get a raise, promotion, or another benefit at work, the victim must agree to some type of sexual favor or date. For example, if a boss tells his secretary that she could be promoted to assistant supervisor if she goes along with him on a long weekend to his cabin, that’s Quid Pro Quo harassment.
If you believe you’re being sexually harassed in the workplace, start by talking to the EEOC. It’s their job to investigate all reports. Hostile Work Environment complaints need to show a pattern of harassment or unwanted behavior. If it’s infrequent or has only happened once, it won’t count.
You’re Also Protected From Retaliation
After talking to a person in human resources or to the EEOC, you’re protected against retaliation. Retaliation is also illegal. Your boss, co-workers, or other associates cannot retaliate because you had the courage to come forward. If you are retaliated against, you may be able to hold your employer liable for the retaliation.
Don’t Sit Back and Brush It Off as Someone’s Sense of Humor
If you see another employee being sexually harassed, speak up. If you think you’re being sexually harassed, file a complete with the person listed in your company’s sexual harassment guidelines and/or talk to the EEOC to file a complaint. Sexual harassment is often associated with something women face, but men can too. Everyone should be confident enough to file a complaint if they’ve experienced or witnessed sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is not something you must tolerate to climb the corporate ladder. It’s not something you have to laugh off and ignore. If you’re being sexually harassed at work by a boss, fellow employee, customer, vendor, or anyone else who is part of the workplace, you have rights. If you’ve seen someone else being harassed, you’re protected by the same rights. Talk to Abramson, Levin & Gindi LLP. They’re experts in sexual harassment complaints and are happy to offer advice and assistance throughout this often emotional process.