‘Sexual Harassment’ Category Archives

17
Sep

How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

by admin in Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace can come in different forms of conduct – verbal, visual or physical. Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act defines sexual harassment as behavior that has occurred whenever an employee is unfairly treated owing to his or her gender (in businesses with 15 or more staff.) Most state laws mirror the federal statutes. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects a person’s employment, unreasonably interferes with their work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Sexual harassment does not have to be sexual in nature but can simply include offensive remarks about a persons sex. Although male-on-female harassment remains more common, there has been a steady rise in the number of males filing charges against female employees or supervisors. In such situations, harassment is typically not sexual in nature, but the female will show favoritism among female employees. Sexual harassment charges that males have filed have risen from 11.6% in 1997 to 16.3% in 2011. This is thought to be due to a rising number of females in managerial positions.

There are two general types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves scenarios in which an employee or supervisor will ask another employee to do something unwelcome or inappropriate (this can include dates or sexual favors), in exchange for something of professional nature. For example, a supervisor may exhibit this behavior by offering an employee a raise or promotion only if they agree to go out for drinks or perform a sexual favor. The second category of sexual harassment is more difficult to prove or legally pinpoint. In a hostile work environment charge, the victim of sexual harassment would need to prove that they were made to feel uncomfortable due to unwelcome sexual advancement, derogatory comments or the displaying of sexualized images.

Most sexual harassment do not reach a jury or formal hearing. In 2009 56.9% of cases investigated by  EEOC were determined to have no reasonable cause. However, because of the large amount of money awarded to those victims who win their cases, monetary benefits awarded totaled more than $121 million that year. Of the charges that do go to a jury trial, the average award is $225,000 Р$275,000. Because these cases can be so expensive for businesses, it is important for employers to have a formal, written policy in place. Should any harassment occur, businesses that have written policies which each employee has a copy of will be legally protected because they can prove that they took preventative measures to stop or avoid sexual harassment. Such policies should include a person or department designated to receive any harassment complaints, and a chain of command for how to deal with them.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment it is imperative that you notify your employer. You should follow any sexual harassment policy in place and expect your employer to do the same. If you are unsatisfied with the results you can quickly seek legal counsel. You will have 180 days from the date that the harassment occurred to file a charge (federal employees have 45 days to contact an EEOC counselor). You can sue for money damages, to get your job back if you have been terminated, and ask the court to make your employer change its practices to prevent future sexual harassment from occurring.