Sexual Harassment & Assault
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment should have no place at work. Aside from the physical and emotional toll it can have on a victim, sexual harassment disrupts work and puts good employees in unenviable positions where they have the added distraction of harassing behavior on top of their normal workload. The workplace is already a wildly unfair place for women, and sexual harassment brings obvious and hidden burdens into an already difficult situation.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
Coming forward is far from easy. But there are laws designed to help. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws workplace sexual harassment. There are, essentially, two types of illicit sexual harassment: hostile environment and quid pro quo. Harassment is illegal if it is unwelcome, based on sex, severe or pervasive, and attributable to the employer. Quid pro quo harassment occurs where a manager makes an employment decision based on an employee’s refusal of sexual advances. This type of violation is as common as it is illegal. If you suspect that you have been demoted, passed over for promotion, or fired for refusing your boss’s sexual advances, you should reach out for a consultation today.
Sufficiently Severe or Pervasive?
Hostile environment sexual harassment isn’t so straightforward. Certain issues arise over and over again. The most common legal issue is whether courts view the alleged conduct as sufficiently severe or pervasive. One workplace sexual assault can, and should, qualify as sufficiently severe. Likewise, months of unwanted sexual comments or propositions should be pervasive. Unsurprisingly, courts have not historically been fair to female employees in their interpretation of whether behavior is severe or pervasive. This issue often turns on each case’s specific facts and there’s no clear line as to what is severe enough to be illegal. Lawyers who practice in this area can assess your specific facts and analyze the likely outcomes.
Another common issue is whether the employer can be legally held liable for the sexual harassment. If the harasser is a co-worker, employers typically defend against the allegations by arguing that it was not put on notice of the harassment and, therefore, never had an opportunity to correct it. Because of this, courts often require victims to report harassment to their supervisors or Human Resources departments. If the employer inadequately responds to the complaint the harassment continues, then the company is clearly liable for the harassment.
Different rules often apply when the harasser is a supervisor or higher-level employee. But reporting is still paramount. The law will allow your employer to get away with even illegal sexual harassment if you fail to follow the letter of the company’s sexual harassment reporting policy.
Legal Representation for Sexual Harassment
Coming forward is difficult enough, and the law surrounding sexual harassment is more complicated than it should be. It’s never too early to schedule a confidential consultation with a lawyer if you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.
Reach out for a consultation today.