You’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work. Now What?
It’s Not Always Obvious What Qualifies as Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it constitutes a form of discrimination based on sex.
Under the law, either men or women may commit sexual harassment or be a victim of it. Your harasser may be a colleague, a subordinate, a client, or a supervisor. Sexual harassment can take several forms, including:
- Unwelcome romantic or sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Offensive or derogatory remarks about people of a certain sex
- “Quid pro quo” requests, demanding sexual favors in return for rewards at work
Generally, a behavior is considered sexual harassment when it creates a hostile work environment, interferes with your job, or directly affects your employment—for instance, if you’re fired or demoted for refusing sexual advances.
However, the line can sometimes be blurry, as comments or behavior that might constitute sexual harassment if they occur with regularity may not if they’re isolated, offhand comments.
Factors a court will consider when determining whether a behavior amounts to sexual harassment include:
- Whether the behavior was verbal, physical, or both.
- How often it happened.
- Whether the comments were hostile, intimidating, or offensive.
- Whether there was an imbalance of power—the harasser was a supervisor or an important client.
- Whether other people joined in the harassment.
- Whether one person was specifically targeted.
What To Do if You’re Experiencing Harassment at Work
If you are being sexually harassed at work, you may not feel comfortable confronting the harasser and telling them directly to stop. But there are other concrete steps you can take.
- Follow Your Employer’s Policy
Many employers have sexual harassment policies that define the steps you can take if you’re subject to harassment. It should tell you how to file a complaint and who to file with.
If you can’t find directions on your company website or employee handbook, ask a supervisor—it doesn’t have to be your own—or someone in the Human Resources department.
- Talk To a Supervisor
If your employer has no defined sexual harassment policy or complaint procedure, talk to a supervisor—perhaps your own, your harasser’s supervisor, or someone else you trust. Describe the behavior and ask for their assistance in stopping it.
Bear in mind that it’s unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for speaking up about harassment.
- Hire an Employment Attorney
If you’re being sexually harassed at work, a qualified employment attorney can help you hold your employer accountable.
Everyone deserves to go to work at a safe workplace free of intimidation, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.