Workplace Sexual Harassment: Know Your Rights

Sexual harassment is not a new issue; however, it is something people staring hearing more about when more women began entering the workplace. This led both federal and state governments to acknowledge that sexual harassment in the workplace does happen and create laws to protect both men and women. Employers have also acknowledged that sexual harassment happens must follow certain laws concerning these incidents. It is important that you understand your rights, so you can take the necessary steps to put a stop to sexual harassment if it happens to you. 

Sexual Harassment Laws

It is against the law to sexually harass another person. Many states have their own laws concerning theses types of incidents, and they are often considered a type of sexual discrimination. Federal laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , which views sexual harassment as employee discrimination, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 gives sexual harassment victims with legal right to hire an attorney and sue for damages. 

Understanding Your Rights

It is important to understand that sexual harassment is not always as obvious as you might think. It does not have to have to include physical contact or overt verbal advances. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), consider the following incidents to be sexual harassment.

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment, which is when someone who has a certain amount of power over you, such as a managerial position, makes you believe if you do not do respond nicely to their advances, you'll lose your job.
  • Creating an intimidating environment, which includes subjecting a coworker to sexually lewd comments, unwanted physical contact, or sexually explicit material that makes it difficult for a person to do his or her job. 

You can be a victim of sexual harassment even if it is not directed at you. If you have a coworker who is promoted in exchange for sexual favors with the boss, then you may be the victim of sexual harassment. If the sexual advances are directed toward you, and you comply with them out of fear of losing your job, the law may still consider the incident sexual harassment. No matter what type of harassment it is, generally there must be a pattern, so something must happen more than once. 

Your employer is obligated by law to address any reported instances of sexual harassment, and your employer can be held liable for instances of quid pro quo harassment. If you feel you have been sexually harassed, it is a good idea to discuss the instances with a sexual harassment attorney to help you through the legal process of filing a lawsuit.