You’d think in this day and age after the number of highly publicized sexual harassment lawsuits, people would “get it” that sexual harassment is illegal. It is not tolerated today as it once was in the past.
The interesting thing about sexual harassment and other civil rights, is that it has been illegal since 1964 to discriminate on the basis of sex, national origin, age, color, race or religion. Back then, and over the intervening years, while people paid this concept lip service, not a lot of people actually did anything about it. Victims, in particular, were not prone to speaking up for themselves and sexual harassment continued behind closed doors and unreported, tolerated because someone needed a job.
Sexual harassment is very much about power and control and those that choose to go this route with their employees need to be stopped in their tracks, taken down a peg or two. This type of behavior is not acceptable under any circumstances in the 21st century.
Federal sexual harassment law is dealt with in one of two categories. The first is Quid Pro Quo and the second is referred to as Hostile Sexual Environment. In simple terms, the hostile sexual environment comes about when unwelcome sexual conduct ruins the work atmosphere. It permeates everything a person does, affects work performance, and creates an offensive environment at all company functions – in the actual workplace and at gatherings.
There are certain types of harassment that are considered in the hostile sexual environment category, and they include vulgar sounds, vulgar statements, indirect sexual remarks, obvious sexual conduct, abusive language, and very sexually explicit graffiti, pinups or jokes. One of the requirements to make a case of a hostile sexual environment is that the behavior complained of happens repeatedly and is considered to be unwelcome.
The most important thing to remember is that it makes no difference what the harasser thought they were doing – as in they thought it was flattering. The only person’s point of view in these circumstances is the victim’s. If they feel it is unwelcome behavior, then it is harassment – period!
In cases like this the whole company may come under scrutiny and in some instances it is not unexpected that courts will hold employers liable in sexual harassment cases that involved vendors, customers, supervisors and other employees.
If you feel you have been or are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, contact a qualified sexual harassment attorney immediately and discuss the details of your potential case. Only a competent attorney is able to help you get through the landmines of a sexual harassment case.