Any kind of sexual harassment is unacceptable. Sexual harassment in the workplace has gained an enormous amount of national attention over the last year, and individuals (and the employers of these individuals in many cases) are being held accountable for their actions.
Do you know what constitutes sexual harassment?
It is important to understand the complex questions surrounding the subject, your individual rights, and the different avenues available in holding people accountable and receiving justice for victims.
8 Common Questions About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
What is Sexual Harassment?
What is “Hostile Environment” Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination. It is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An employer may be held responsible for sexual harassment by its employees under certain circumstances. Not all conduct of a sexual nature or conduct which may be fairly described a sexual misconduct will be actionable or the basis to hold an employer responsible for the actions of an employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has guidelines that define two types of sexual harassment: “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment.”
Sexual harassment in the workplace defined as a “hostile environment” can include one or more of the following:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
When this type of conduct occurs that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment and/or unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance, this is defined as a “hostile environment.”
What is “Quid Pro Quo” Sexual Harassment?
“Quid pro quo” behaviors approach sexual harassment in the workplace as a type of transaction. This means that any requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, or other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature would be connected to:
- Submission to conduct is made (either explicitly or implicitly) a term or condition of an individual’s employment
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such an individual up to and including firing from said position, and related employee benefits, salary, or promotions
Both of these types of sexual harassment are covered under employment law. Expert employment rights attorneys help individuals with these cases every day.
Who Can Be a Victim of Sexual Harassment?
Women are often the primary victims of sexual harassment, but men can be victims too. Also, the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. In addition, a person who is affected by the offensive conduct can also be classified as a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Who Can Be a Sexual Harasser?
Individual harassers can be either a man or a woman. A harasser doesn’t only have to be a person’s boss. The roles can include:
- A supervisor
- An agent of the employer
- A supervisor in another area
- A co-worker
- A non-employee
Many times, a sexual harasser will be a person in direct authority — but that is not always the case. The unwanted behavior of other individuals listed above is well-documented and can occur across industries.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Verbal remarks without physical touching can constitute sexual harassment. The frequency, nature, context, and intended target of the remarks will be investigated. The relevant factors involved can include whether the individual harasser singled out the charging party if the language was derogatory or hostile, and the particular relationship between the alleged harasser and the charging party.
A singular incident that is unusually severe may constitute a Title VII violation. From “quid pro quo” to “hostile work environment,” the general rule is that the more severe the harassment, the less the need is to show a repetitive series of incidents. Professional employee rights advocates understand the complexities of the definitions and can help you move through the process. You don’t have to be in it alone.
What are the Types of Remedies in Pursuing Justice for Sexual Harassment?
Depending on the situation, victims of sexual harassment may be entitled to certain remedies in the pursuit of justice. Whether the unwanted behavior is ongoing or if you have been terminated, these can include the following:
- Compensatory damages
- Reinstatement to your job — with all pay and benefits
- Back pay — from the date of termination to the settlement or verdict
- Punitive damages — if the behavior was especially egregious, or if there are similar claims and settlements
- Emotional damages — for psychological suffering and damage to reputation
- “Front pay” damages — what you would have earned had you continued the place of employment
As you may have seen in the national media, powerful people across broadcast media, entertainment, politics, hospitality, and more are being held accountable. You may be entitled to one or more of the above types of damages or payments.
What Should I Do if I Feel I Have Been a Victim of Sexual Harassment?
The first thing to know is that you are not alone and there are resources to help. People across industries are unfortunately dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace — but there are professionals that have the experience and expertise to help bring harassers to justice.
Reaching out to dedicated employee rights attorneys is your best option to hold people accountable and fight for your rights. A general attorney who does not specialize in the field does not have the comprehensive expertise and experience to help you the best.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., has helped thousands of others just like you. When employees want workplace justice, they call us. If you are not sure if you have a case or not, it’s okay. That is what we are here for. We provide confidential, free, initial consultations to talk about what happened and what your options might be. Any kind of sexual harassment is unacceptable. It is wrong — and the harassers should be stopped and held accountable for their behavior.
We are an industry-respected firm that possesses a track record of success in handling complex employment law disputes. We are here to help. Call us today or fill out the form to request your free, initial consultation.