Employers Are Liable For Sexual Harassment In the Workplace
By Jake Modla
Sexual harassment in the workplace remains a common occurrence and affects men as well as women. In many cases employers are liable. When harassment occurs, employers must be held accountable. This is the best way to ensure a safe working environment for all employees. If you face sexual harassment in the workplace, the Law Offices of Jason E Taylor can help you fight to protect your rights.
What Is Sex Harassment?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex harassment in the workplace. Generally, sex harassment can be divided into two categories, quid pro quo harassment or hostile environment harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee’s manager or supervisor forces her to endure physical or verbal harassment as a condition of getting a raise or promotion or simply to keep her job. For example, a manager tells his female secretary that in order to get her annual raise she must meet him at a motel and have sex.
Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the workplace is filled with unwanted sexual conduct including sexual jokes, suggestive or lewd comments, inappropriate emails or text messages, unwanted touching, questions about a person’s sex life or distributing inappropriate material, such as pornography, in the workplace. When these things occur frequently, the workplace becomes a hostile environment.
The harasser and the victim can be a man and a woman, or a woman and man or they can be the same gender. The harasser can be the owner, a supervisor, a co-worker or a non-employee who sometimes visits the workplace, for example a delivery driver or a person who visits a worksite to fill the vending machines.
If you are being sexually harassed, or if your workplace is filled with inappropriate conduct, it must be reported immediately:
Sexual harassment or other inappropriate conduct must be immediately reported to a supervisor, manager or the employer’s Human Resources department. In order to hold employers liable for sexual harassment, the organization must be aware of the harassment; and the only way to make your employer aware of the harassment is to report it to management.
When you complain, you must be as detailed as possible and don’t be shy about including specifics about profanity or sexual remarks. If a coworker calls you a “bitch,” don’t tell your supervisor somebody cursed at you. Report the use of the word “bitch.” If a male coworker remarks: “Sally you have huge jugs;” then Sally needs to tell her boss or Human Resources exactly what was said, she needs to specifically report the use of the words “jugs.” Sally can’t be shy or timid and simply tell her boss someone made comments about her body. Identifying the precise words used helps the employer fully understand the nature of the problem and prevents the employer from later claiming it didn’t appreciate how bad things were.
Know your company's sex harassment policy and don’t fear retaliation:
If your boss is the person creating the hostile environment, you still must report the conduct. Many employees are fearful of being fired or retaliated against for reporting harassment, therefore they remain silent. THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE. Victims of harassment must set their fear aside and report the harassment. The law makes it illegal to retaliate against someone for reporting harassment.
All employers have sex harassment policies. If you feel you are being harassed make sure you get a copy of the policy and read it. It may be in your handbook, it may be on an online portal, or it may be posted on a bulletin board in the breakroom, wherever it is, get a copy and read it. The policy will contain instructions on how to report harassment. Employees must make sure they follow the written procedures on reporting harassment. The policy may also include a 1-800 telephone number you can call to report the harassment to the corporate, or main office, human resources department. When you do make a complaint, provide as much detail as possible, including:
- The name of the person harassing you.
- When did the harassment occur.
- Where did the harassment occur.
- How often did it occur.
- What was specifically done or said.
- The names of any witnesses to the harassment.
Always demand the harasser to stop-tell them you don’t want them harassing you.
In order for harassment to be illegal it must be unwanted. There must be evidence the victim wanted it to stop. If you are being harassed, tell the harasser to stop each time they engage in the behavior. If a man asks a woman out on a date, and the woman is not interested, she needs to tell him no. If he continues to ask her out, she needs to tell him stop asking her out. If someone tells a sexual joke that offends you, don’t fake laughter just to go along with the conduct you find offensive- the victim needs to tell the person telling the sexual jokes to stop.
If you are being sexually harassed, you must file an administrative charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or other similar state agency in order to fully protect your rights:
The deadlines for filing sexual harassment claims are much shorter than the typical legal claim. People who have been the victim of sexual harassment must also file charges with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or similar state agencies before they can file a lawsuit. The deadline for filing a discrimination charge can be as short as 180 days from the first act of sexual harassment.
The filing of an administrative charge of discrimination requires the submission of a written document to the EEOC or state agency, such as the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission.