Sexual harassment in the workplace is considered a form of sex discrimination under federal law and is illegal. Sexual harassment can happen to women or men individually or create a work environment that is hostile and negatively impacts all workers.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of 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.” From this statement, behavior may be considered sexual harassment when it is unwelcome, severe or pervasive, and when it makes it difficult or impossible for the individual who is being harassed to do his or her job. Sexual harassment can impact women or men and the harasser may be the same or opposite sex of the victim. It does not matter if the harasser is a co-worker or supervisor, or even a customer or office visitor. Your employer has an obligation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
From a practical perspective, it may help to have some examples of behavior that, meeting both of the above requirements, would be considered sexual harassment:
Examples of Sexual Harassment
- Unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature
- Inappropriate and unwelcome touching (kissing, hugging, stroking)
- Requesting sexual favors
- Derogatory gestures or comments
- Drawings or posters or a sexual nature
- Sexually-explicit or threatening e-mails
- Sexual assault (call the police and report this immediately)
If you encounter any of these types of behavior at work, you should ask the individual who is harassing you to stop the behavior. You should also report the sexual harassment to your manager or HR department (or owner) and begin documenting any and all future similar behaviors, including date, time, exactly what happened and the names and contact information of any witnesses to the behavior. If it continues, you may wish to consult an employment law attorney to see if you have a sexual harassment case. Do not delay as this can negatively impact your sexual harassment case.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, either call us at 1.800.556.8404 or click here to fill out a short Discrimination/ Harassment Submission Form.
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