SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
You may be thinking: I have never sexually harassed anyone at my job…have I? I think I may be a victim, but how can I be sure? Chances are that you have no idea what sexual harassment is. Courts have difficulty pinning down the definition too. You are not alone. The dedicated employment lawyers at Freundlich & Littman are here to help you navigate this process. First let’s break this down.
WHAT IS IT?
Sexual harassment has been defined broadly in order to encompass the many forms harassing behavior can take. The foremost authority on sexual harassment is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC has provided the following as examples of sexual harassment:
- Comments of an overt or covert sexual nature
- Quid pro quo (this for that) sexual favors
- Unwanted touching
- General comments regarding the gender of the victim
Sexual harassment is not always in the form of direct behavior. Sexual harassment can be in the form of indirect behavior, creating what is called a “hostile work environment”. If your work environment is filled with jokes of a sexual nature, comments on someone’s sex, or you witness unwanted touching, you may have a claim of a sexual harassment/hostile work environment, even if the behavior is not directed at you.
These are only guidelines on forms sexual harassment. The EEOC and the courts have further made it clear that the behavior must be “severe and pervasive”. This is where people get frustrated over the definition of sexual harassment. The behavior must be more than a mere passing comment that is non-serious. It is often on-going, relentless behavior that effects your ability to perform your job.
The conduct must be severe or on-going to qualify. If you think you might be the victim of this kind of treatment contact us for further review.
WHO CAN BE A VICTIM?
Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. Yes, anyone. Allow me to tell you a quick story. A man working on an oil rig was the subject of cruel sexualized treatment from his co-workers for several relentless weeks. Oil rigs, as you may know, are surrounded by water. The man could not get away from the jokes, gestures, and deplorable treatment; however, his co-workers were all men. Until he decided to sue for sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, the country thought that only women could be the victim of sexual harassment from men. This is not true as the Supreme Court stated plainly in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshores Services, Inc.
Again, anyone can seek relief from sexual harassment in the court system even if you are treated poorly by the same gender or the opposite gender. Don not let this be an impediment to coming forward. Contact an employment lawyer at Freundlich & Littman today at 215-545-8500.
WHO IS THE GUILTY PARTY?
You may be afraid that you cannot seek relief from your horrible treatment simply because it is not your boss who sexually harassed you. Fear not.
The courts have again cast a wide net in order to deal with the problems of sexual harassment. Traditionally, the supervisors have been seen as the sole perpetrators of sexual harassment. While sexual harassment is often perpetrated by supervisors, others in the workplace can be guilty of sexual harassment.
Co-workers who frequently harass you, such as the man from the oil rig, are guilty of sexual harassment. If a supervisor from another department comes over to you and tells you that he will write you up if don not complete a sexual favor for him, then he is still guilty of sexual harassment. Even customers or clients who are frequently in contact with you in the workplace or during your normal course of work can be guilty of sexual harassment even if they do not have direct control over you.
I AM AFRAID TO SAY SOMETHING
People are justifiably afraid to come out against their employers in any way for fear that they will lose their jobs or future employment opportunities. Perhaps you made a complaint at your Human Resources department. Your employer contacted your supervisor, reprimanded them, and sent them to sexual harassment training. Now, your supervisor is back and writes you up more than any other employee or moves your shift from the day to night. This is illegal.
Your employer may not retaliate against you for coming forward about the harassment. Even if your claims are unsuccessful in court or your company’s internal process, they still may not retaliate against you. Again, retaliation takes many forms. Generally, retaliation is any unfavorable employment action taken against you without justification. Examples include:
- Changing work shifts
- Write ups
If you think you are a victim of retaliation for making a complaint of sexual harassment, do not hesitate to seek out an employment lawyer.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Making a complaint of sexual harassment can seem scary, but that does not mean you cannot see relief from perpetrators of sexual harassment. The employment lawyers at Freundlich & Littman, LLC understand how scary and alienating the process seems. You are not alone. Reach out for legal advice today. We can be reached at (215) 545-8500 or at [email protected]
For more information, see these links:
 Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., et al, 118 S.Ct. 998 (March 4, 1998)