An Overview of Workplace-Related Sexual Harassment

EEOC (Equal Opportunity Employment Commission) conducted a study in 2016 and made a shocking revelation. According to their report, 75% of individuals, who has bitter experiences of sexual harassment at workplaces, fear to raise the matter with a manager, supervisor or even union leaders. This is simply because they fear retaliation at workplace. Another possible explanation of underreporting is victimized employees have no clear idea about the distinction between inappropriate behavior and illegal harassment.

In today’s modern society, sexual harassment has evolved from direct proposal for physical intimacy or a slap on the rear end to more subtle forms including indecent contents (usually sent at night), unwelcome erotic comments and invitations to meetings where the person might directly or indirectly offer to take you on dates. Nowadays, sexual harassment is not confined to forcing someone into physical relationship but extends to sending sexually explicit contents via emails and posts on social media.

Furthermore, such incidents happen not only at workplaces but also at other venues.

Defining Sexual Harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, sexual harassment is illegal. The Title applies to the companies having 15 or more employees and outlines two kinds of sexual harassment – Quid Pro Quo Harassment and Hostile Work Environment.

The first type is quite straightforward in nature whereas, it’s more difficult to detect hostile work environment. In this blog, we’ll provide some important guidelines about what kinds of behaviour and how much of it can qualify as sexual harassment.

Types of Inappropriate Behavior

Some workplace conducts – such as, touching breasts or private parts, unwanted kissing, butt slapping and other types of sexual assaults, making sexually explicit comments, sexually suggestive gestures, unwelcome messages, ogling, catcalls or cornering someone in a small place – are considered inappropriate behaviours of sexual nature.

Though overt kinds of sexual harassment also happen at workplaces, more subtle types of harassment are on alarming rise. For instance, any of the following actions can qualify as sexual harassment if these happen frequently or are severe enough to create an uncomfortable work environment for an employee via intimidation or distraction that is likely to adversely affect his or her performance:

  • Repeatedly complimenting on an employee’s physical appearance
  • Passing comments on others’ attractiveness in front of an employee
  • Discussing one’s sex life in front of an employer
  • Asking an employee about his or her sex life
  • Circulating nude photos of women or photos of bikini-clad women or topless men at the workplace
  • Passing sexually explicit jokes
  • Sending or circulating sexually suggestive text contents or emails
  • Giving gifts romantic or sexual in nature
  • Circulating sexual rumours about an employee
  • Frequent hugs or other inappropriate touches (for example, on hands or back)

For any conduct to qualify as hostile work environment, considering it offensive by the victimized employee is not enough as another reasonable person should think the same way about the conduct were he or she in the similar situations.

Followings are some other important factors to remember when it comes to sexual harassment:

  • Sexist actions and even comments also qualify as sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment can be committed by a manager, supervisor, co-worker, customer and client.
  • Sexual harassment is not gender-specific; men are also victims to sexual harassment at workplaces.

If you have reasons to believe that you were harassed at your workplace, the first step is to talk to a Springfield, MA workplace sexual harassment lawyer to safeguard your interests. The lawyer is the right person to suggest the right route to actions and if you have enough evidence to make a fruitful sexual harassment claim.