Both state and Federal law protect employees from sexual harassment in the work environment. To best understand what sexual harassment encompasses, the first step is to recognize that there are two main categories of sexual harassment:
- Required toleration of sexual harassment in order to keep a job, get a promotion, job benefit, or raise
- A hostile work environment so abusive or offensive that it interferes with or alters an employee’s job performance
In the first category, a single incident may be adequate to support a harassment claim. However, proving a hostile work environment, as in the second category, usually requires a number of incidents reflecting a pattern of conduct.
Examples of sexual harassment may include:
- Demanding sexual favors
- Unwanted sexual advances, flirtations or propositions
- Sexually verbal and graphic abuse – such as describing someone in sexually degrading terms or using sexually suggestive pictures or objects
Overall, in proving a sexual harassment case, these are some of the other factors that must be taken into consideration:
- Who was the intended target of the sexual or offensive remarks?
- What was the nature, context and frequency of the remarks?
- Were the remarks hostile and derogatory?
- Did the alleged harasser single out the complaining party?
- Did the complaining party participate in the exchange?
- What is the relationship between the complaining party and the alleged harasser?
- Did the complaining party find the conduct to be abusive, hostile or offensive?
- Would a reasonable person have considered the conduct hostile, abusive or offensive?
An employer may be held liable if he doesn’t take appropriate corrective action to control employees or non-employees involved in sexual harassment. Also, the offended person doesn’t necessarily have to be the victim in order to file a sexual harassment claim.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, what actions should you take?
- Ensure there is no mistaken belief that the conduct is welcome, inform the harasser through words or our conduct that the harassment is unwelcome and mist stop.
- Report the abuse through any company grievance or complaint system.
*If these approaches are unsuccessful, contact an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment. The attorney may also advise you to contact the EEOC or a similar state agency to report the incidents or seek assistance from the agency.
In building a sexual harassment case, part of the legal strategy includes showing you took reasonable advantage of the opportunities provided by your employer to prevent and correct the harassment. You are also protected under the law when you file sexual harassment charges or participate in an investigation or litigation associated with a sexual harassment complaint.
If you have sexual harassment concerns, please call our office today at (208) 331-2100 to arrange a free consultation.