What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is any type of conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcomed or unwanted. Sometimes a higher up would condition promotion or favorable treatment upon submission to his/her sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is also committed where a supervisor or co-worker creates an abusive or intimidating work environment of a sexual nature.
Facts about Sexual Harassment:
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
Information from U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Examples of Acts/Conducts of Sexual Harassment at Work:
- Rape or attempted rape
- Pressure for sex or sexual favors
- Touching, staring, making uncomfortable sexual gestures
- Sending letters, emails, texts, messages, etc., of a sexual nature
- Pressure for a date
- Sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions of a sexual nature
- Discussion of sexual topics, sexual innuendos or stories
- Asking questions relating to sexual fantasies, preferences, or history
- Personal questions about the person’s social or sex life
- Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks
- Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life
- Facial expressions, winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips
- Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements
- Making sexual comments about a person’s body
- Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks
- Repeatedly asking out a person who is not interested
What are the Different Types of Sexual Harassment?
Quid Pro Quo Harassment is when employment of an employee is based on that employee’s acceptance or rejection of uncomfortable sexual behavior. For example, boss, supervisor or upper management asks for sex in return for job security, better pay, perks, promotion, etc. This is often referred to as a quid pro quo (which is Latin for “favor for favor” or “what for what”). If you refuse, the boss retaliates against you by making your job difficult, and may even demote, transfer or fire you.
Hostile Work Environment is a work environment created by unwelcome sexual behavior or behavior directed at an employee because of that employee’s sex that is offensive, hostile and/or intimidating and that unfavorably affects that employee’s ability to do his or her job. For example, pervasive unwelcome sexual comments or jokes that continue even though the person made it clear that those behaviors are unwelcomed. The employer may be held strictly liable for certain damages where the harasser is your boss and part of upper management. The employer may also be liable where you are subjected to sexual harassment by a co-worker and you inform management, and they fail to take any corrective action. The victim can be either a man or a woman.
What can you do and what evidence is needed to prove Sexual Harassment?
Employment discrimination cases are among the most difficult in the entire civil litigation system. Often times, the evidence is no more than “he say, she say.” Even where a co-worker witnessed sexual harassment, he/she is unlikely to risk his/her job and assist you in your case. In today’s times, it is imperative that you have some evidence of sexual harassment. The following may be helpful in proving your case:
- Voice/Video Recordings
- Telephone messages (voice mail)
- Text messages
- Postings on Social Networking sites, such as Facebook
- Notes posted around the workplace
- Gifts purchased for you
- Notes posted around the workplace
SEXISM is an attitude. It is an attitude of a person of one sex that he or she is superior to a person of the other sex.
For example, a man thinks that women are too emotional. Or a woman thinks that men are chauvinists.
SEX DISCRIMINATION is a behavior. It occurs when employment decisions are based on an employees sex or when an employee is treated differently because of his or her sex.
For example, a female supervisor always asks the male employees, in a coed workplace, to move the boxes of computer paper. Or, a male supervisor always asks the female employees, in a coed workplace to plan office parties.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT is a behavior. It is defined as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature.
For example, a man whistles at a woman when she walks by. Or a woman looks a man up and down when he walks towards her.
SUBTLE SEXUAL HARASSMENT is a behavior but not a legal term. It is unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that if allowed to continue could create a QUID PRO QUO and/or a Hostile Work Environment for the recipient.
For example, unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, innuendos.
QUID PRO QUO HARASSMENT is when employment and/or employment decisions for an employee are based on that employees’s acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual behavior.
For example, a supervisor fires an employee because that employee will not go out with him or her.
HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT is a work environment created by unwelcome sexual behavior or behavior directed at an employee because of that employee’s sex that is offensive, hostile and/or intimidating and that adversely affects that employee’s ability to do his or her job.
For example, pervasive unwelcome sexual comments or jokes that continue even though the recipient has indicated that those behaviors are unwelcome
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