Types of cases:
• Sexual Harassment
• Sex Discrimination
• Employer Retaliation
Employment Law: Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under the provisions of the Civil Rights Act that prohibit discrimination based on sex, as well as state and local laws. It is broadly defined as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct, where the employee’s response affects his or her employment. An employee’s job may be explicitly or implicitly threatened, or the individual may simply be forced to work in a hostile or intimidating environment. Victims can be of either gender and do not have to be the opposite gender of the harasser, who can be a co-worker or non-employee as well as a supervisor. In some circumstances, a victim can be a person who is not the target of harassment, but is affected by the environment it creates.
Sexual Harassment In the Workplace Has Legal Ramifications
Sexual harassment in the workplace has been the topic of many high-profile court cases in recent years, although the significant majority of cases are not reported in the press. According to the EEOC, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment is a broad term and includes a wide variety of behavior in the workplace.
Some of the actions that constitute sexual harassment include: repeated sexual innuendo, obscene or off-color jokes, slurs, lewd remarks and language; content in letters and notes, faxes, e-mail and graffiti that is of a sexual nature or sexually abusive; sexual propositions, insults and threats; sexually-oriented demeaning names; persistent unwanted sexual or romantic overtures or attention; leering, whistling or other sexually suggestive sounds or gestures; displaying pornographic pictures, calendars, cartoons or other sexual material in the workplace; coerced or unwelcome touching, patting, brushing up against, pinching, kissing, stroking, massaging, squeezing, fondling or tickling; subtle or overt pressure for sexual favors and of course coerced sexual intercourse.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:
• The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man and does not have to be of the opposite sex.
• The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
• The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
• In addition, unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim; however, the harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the whole record should be evaluated, including circumstances such as the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on an individual case-by-case basis. This includes determining whether sexual conduct is “unwelcome”, evaluating evidence of harassment, determining whether a work environment is sexually “hostile”, holding employers liable for sexual harassment by supervisors, and evaluating preventive and remedial action taken in response to claims of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment statutes are in effect in various forms in all states, generally modeled on the federal law. The primary difference is in the amount of remedies and damages given in successful sexual harassment claims. Some states allow monetary damages for personal injuries, while others also allow punitive damages to be awarded.
In 2004, the EEOC received 13,136 charges of sexual harassment, 15.1% of which were filed by males, and recovered $37.1 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals. This does not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation.
Employers’ Responsibility for Supervisors’ Sexual Harassment
All employers are always responsible for harassment by a supervisor that culminates in tangible employment actions. If the harassment did not lead to a tangible employment action, the employer is still liable unless it proves that reasonable care was exercised to prevent and promptly correct any harassment and that the employee unreasonably failed to complain to management.
A person qualifies as an employee’s “supervisor” if the individual has the authority to recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the employee or if the individual has the authority to direct the employee’s daily work activities.