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Five Common Sexual Harassment Myths Busted

Posted by Kira Fonteneau | Feb 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

2017 ushered in what some are calling a new era of gender inequality awareness. With numerous celebrity sex scandals and stories of abuse and harassment of all types, social media and the mainstream news are full of stories about people in positions of power abusing their authority.

Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to sexual harassment and what it truly means. There are state and federal laws that set the standards for workplace behavior. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. While this may seem clear, there are some big myths that need to be addressed.

Myth #1: Women do Not Sexually Harass Workers


The truth is anyone can be a victim, and anyone can be the harasser. Men harass other men, women harass men, women harass other women. Bad behavior knows no gender limits. While we certainly hear more about men in positions of power sexually harassing female subordinates, the EEOC focuses on facts, not the gender of the victim or the accused.

Myth #2: It is Only Sexual Harassment if the Harasser is in Charge


Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 acknowledges two basic forms of sexual harassment. On one hand, a person can commit the offense of harassment by creating a quid pro quo (“This for that” in Latin). This is the type of harassment most people think of when they imagine a typical harassment case. It is where the harasser makes the victim aware that the only way to obtain a job, promotion, more money, or some other benefit or privilege would be to succumb to sexual advances in some way. Yes, this is definitely a form of harassment based on sex.

However, harassment can also be as simple as creating a work environment where the conduct interferes or disrupts work or where it is intimidating or hostile in some way. The EEOC has found sexual harassment in situations where workers posted pornographic materials or used offensive language near other employees, and even after being made aware that it was not acceptable, the conduct continued.

Myth #3: Once the Victim Consents to Behavior, it can Not be Harassment


While it is indeed true that behavior only rises to the level of harassment if someone finds it hostile or unwelcome, consenting to advances is not a permanent decision. For instance, consider a person who expresses interest in a co-worker, and that co-worker expresses a mutual interest. In general, this is not harassment.

If, however, that person later changes his or her mind and expresses a desire to discontinue the sexual or intimate nature of the relationship, then further advances would likely be considered harassment. Ultimately, the point is to look at whether the behavior is welcome or whether a reasonable person would consider it offensive or hostile. Remember, you always have the right to change your mind about participating in a relationship with another person.

Myth #4: People Who Claim Harassment are Just Looking for Money


While less than half of all claims succeed before the EEOC, this is not because they are false or made-up. Rather, many people fail to hire an attorney or they do not know how to present the proof necessary to succeed. On the contrary, as The Guardian reports, about 75% of victims do not even report the behavior. The truth is, harassment happens a lot, and you should not be afraid to talk to a lawyer to get advice if it is happening to you.

Myth #5: The Company is Only Responsible for Employees


Actually, a company can be held responsible for the conduct of vendors, contractors, subcontractors, and other related entities who are permitted to create a hostile working environment for employees.

Talk to a Local Birmingham Sexual Harassment Lawyer

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, your trust is broken. Perhaps you feel betrayed. It is hard to know who to trust. The attorneys Fonteneau & Arnold, LLC have decades of experience handling sensitive and challenging legal problems for their clients. Call (404) 383-5720 or submit a contact form to get real answers now.

About the Author

Kira Fonteneau

Partner and Managing Attorney of the Alabama Trial Practice Group at Barrett & Farahany Kira Fonteneau is a partner and the managing attorney of the Alabama trial group of Barrett & Farahany. Kira chose to specialize in employment law because she wanted to help employees take back power. ...


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