In the past few years, more reports of sexual harassment have been brought to light than ever before. With the help of the #MeToo movement in 2017, women across the globe rose in solidarity to share their experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Unfortunately, not everyone has accepted the severity of this movement. It's not uncommon for women who report sexual harassment to be called dramatic, attention-seeking, or untruthful. Fear of these reactions stops many victims from speaking up, which ultimately robs them of a safe work environment and the justice they deserve. Their situation becomes even more problematic when the harassment comes from a superior. To make matters worse, these women also worry about retaliation from their harasser or employer.
Knowledge is the best resource to combat these fears and empower victims to take action. Learn what constitutes workplace sexual harassment, how you are legally protected, and the next steps you should take immediately after any event that could be considered harassment has taken place.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not only grossly inappropriate, but it's actually a form of discrimination. The act includes (but is not limited to) unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors, whether they be verbal, physical, or both. While general mild flirtation is not prohibited by law, any remarks or actions with a sexually offensive nature can be the basis of a “good faith” complaint to an employer that is legally protected from retaliation.
There are two primary forms of sexual harassment:
- Quid Pro Quo - Latin for “this for that,” this form of harassment usually involves an offer of advancement, raise, promotion or other perks in exchange for sexual favors. The proposition typically comes from a person in power and may be direct or implied. They may also threaten to fire an employee if their demand or request is refused.
- Hostile Work Environment - This type of harassment is presented by a person or group of people through poor conduct towards another person in the workplace. This may include crude jokes, rude comments, asking someone out on a date repeatedly, and groping or other unwanted physical contact.
Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me for Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?
Retaliation usually takes the form of demotion, threats, or termination. It is based on fear – when a manager or the company itself is backed up against a wall, they may use power to make the problem go away. The easiest solution is to push the whistleblower out of the organization, but the law is on your side.
Federal regulations make it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a worker who tries to oppose or remedy sexual harassment in the workplace, refuses to engage in unlawful behavior, or blowing a whistle on company misconduct.
What Do I Need to Prove that I Have Been Sexually Harassed at Work?
Each case of sexual harassment is different as there are many factors affecting the situation. However, there are certain types of information that can help strengthen your case:
- Documentation or proof that you complained of the problem to HR
- Any notes, text messages or emails from the person who was harassing you
- A list of people who may have witnessed the harassment
- Proof that you informed the person harassing you wanted them to stop or found their behavior inappropriate
- Your own account of the harassment in writing
- Any proof of retaliation such as negative employee evaluations, being excluded from meetings, etc.
- Proof that the company was aware of the harassment and did not take action
If you are feeling uncomfortable about an interaction, it's possible you have experienced some form of sexual harassment. An Employment Law attorney can help you identify grounds for legal action or a complaint with the EEOC. Contact us today to speak with one of our employment law attorneys who can help you find the best course of action moving forward.