- What is sexual harassment?
- What are the types of sexual harassment?
- Who is legally responsible for harassment by a supervisor?
- Am I entitled to compensation for my harassment?
- What should employers do to prevent and address harassment?
- What is the procedure to report sexual harassment?
- Should I report harassment to the EEOC?
- Can I be retaliated against for filing a sexual harassment claim?
- Is it sexual harassment to ask a co-worker on a date?
- Are lewd or sexual jokes a form of harassment?
- Are comments on my clothing or appearance a form of sexual harassment?
- How does a lawyer help with my sexual harassment at work?
Q: What is sexual harassment?
A: Sexual harassment is generally defined as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors or other physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature.
Sexual harassment also includes offensive remarks about an individual’s sex. Harassment that is not of a sexual nature but includes repeated offensive remarks about women are also covered by law.
Victims of sexual harassment include both men and women. It can also include harassment from a supervisor, a co-worker or even a client or customer.
Q: What are the types of sexual harassment?
A: According to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) there are two types of sexual harassment, “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.”
“Quid pro quo” harassment occurs when an employee receives perceived sexual demands for some benefit at work such a promotion or pay raise.
A “hostile work environment” occurs when the actions or speech of another employee or supervisor becomes severe and pervasive enough to create a demeaning or intimidating environment at work. This type of harassment becomes harder to identify since the definition is subjective.
Q: Who is legally responsible for harassment by a supervisor?
A: Employers are always responsible for a supervisor’s harassment if that action resulted in an employment action against them. Employment actions result in a significant change in employment status such as firing, demotion, or a decision resulting in a change of benefits or compensation. If no action is taken by the employer they may be liable.
Q: Am I entitled to compensation for my harassment?
A: If you’re the victim of harassment you may be eligible for compensation. A successful harassment claim may result in financial compensation (damages) for back and/or front pay for wages lost due to your harassment, emotional damages (pain and suffering) or punitive damages to your employer for failing to stop the harassment from taking place.
Q: What should employers do to prevent and address harassment?
A: Employers should promote a workplace free from sexual harassment and encourage individuals to come forward and report harassment before it becomes pervasive and/or severe.
Employers should create and enforce a sexual harassment policy that prohibits harassment and establish a procedure for complaints. When a complaint is filed employers should quickly investigate the complaint and take appropriate action against the accused should they be found to have violated the policy.
Employers may also create and distribute training videos that demonstrate a violation of their sexual harassment policy and educate their workforce on how to deal with workplace harassment.
Q: What is the procedure to report sexual harassment?
A: Employers should have a policy and method of reporting harassment available to employees. Most employers use the human resource department for this. Employers typically also require the complaint to be in a designated format and keep reports of harassment confidential.
Q: Should I report harassment to the EEOC?
A: If you have reported a harassment claim to your employer you may wait to see the results of that investigation and see what action, if any, was taken. If you do not see any action as a result of your claim you may want to report your harassment to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces civil rights against workplace harassment and discrimination. You typically have up to 180 days to file a charge after the last date of harassment which can be extended in some circumstances.
Q: Can I be retaliated against for filing a sexual harassment claim?
A: There is a federal law that prohibits employers from retaliation for reporting unlawful practices like discrimination or harassment at your place of employment. Even witnesses of unlawful behavior are protected under federal law.
Q: Is it sexual harassment to ask a co-worker on a date?
A: While most states have no law on workplace romance many employers have enacted policies on working dating as a way to avoid sexual harassment. Without a policy in place dating in the workplace is generally not frowned upon but repeated attempts could be considered pervasive unwanted behavior and thus harassment. It’s probably best to ask once and if the other person is not interested do not ask again.
Q: Are lewd or sexual jokes a form of harassment?
A: It’s possible that repeated jokes could be a form of harassment called hostile work environment. You should remember that the joke or jokes would have to be offensive by a “reasonable person” and not based on your opinion. If you find yourself offended you can choose to report the behavior and should this behavior continue it may constitute harassment.
Q: Are comments on my clothing or appearance a form of sexual harassment?
A: Not necessarily. It depends on their comments and the nature of those comments. If the comments are unprofessional and suggestive such as commenting that the person to wear more revealing clothing then they could be considered harassment. Comments of this nature which are pervasive or occur frequently are inappropriate and could trigger a complaint. If these comments cause undue stress this could be a sign of a hostile work environment.
Q: How does a lawyer help with my sexual harassment at work?
A: A sexual harassment lawyer can help throughout the process. Engaging a lawyer can help you fully understand your rights in the workplace and help identify if harassment has occurred. They will also negotiate with your employer and the EEOC to ensure the best outcome for your harassment claim and any potential lawsuit. If you feel you’re the victim of sexual harassment call us for a free consultation.