Does Sexual Harassment Have to Be Sexual in Nature?

Even though significant strides have been made to prevent workplace sexual harassment, it is still an ongoing problem. Those who experience this kind of mistreatment and abuse are often afraid of losing their jobs and feel powerless to stop what is going on. The law protects individuals from sexual harassment, and you might be surprised to see what behaviors actually fall into this category.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment and applies to companies that have at least 15 employees. The two main types of sexual harassment categories are:

  • Quid pro quo harassment: This is when an employer or supervisor’s request for sexual favors/sexual conduct leads to a job action, whether the employee agrees to the request or not. An example might be an assistant getting fired for refusing to sleep with their manager.
  • Hostile work environment: This is seen when employees are subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The conduct is pervasive or severe enough to create an abusive or hostile work environment.

The majority of workplace sexual harassment revolves around actions or words that are of a sexual nature. Targeted employees might be faced with displays or pornography, explicit/suggestive comments, unwelcome physical contact, rude gestures, and requests/demands for sexual favors. However, the actions and words do not need to be sexual in nature to be considered sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that sexual harassment is workplace discrimination based on sex or gender. Therefore, offensive remarks regarding gender can fall under sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can also be forced on others by colleagues, vendors, and company clients. Employers are responsible for protecting employees from any form of sexual harassment, even when it is not sexual in nature or if it comes from a subordinate.

What Should I Do if I am Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

If you are being sexually harassed at work, you may want to confront the alleged abuser. Although this can stop harassment, many people are afraid of doing so. If you are unable to or if it is not successful, read your employee manual and find out how to file a formal complaint; it will likely be through your employer’s HR Department. Follow the procedures carefully, and keep a record of everything that happens. This includes the dates, times, and nature of the harassment, any witnesses, procedures you followed, and how the employer responded.

Should your employer fail to investigate the harassment or if they retaliate against you, you have the option of filing an administrative charge of discrimination with the EEOC. In the Garden State, you can also file this with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Should neither of these filings go your way, they will send you a letter notifying you of your right to sue. Then, you can file a suit against the employer in federal or state court. You might be able to receive damages to cover backpay, lost benefits, emotional distress, and your legal fees. There may also be a former job reinstatement and an order for the employer to implement stronger policies and training to end harassment.

South Jersey Employment Lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Represents Employees Dealing With Workplace Sexual Harassment

No one should have to suffer the ill effects of workplace sexual harassment, and your rights can be protected. Speak with our South Jersey employment lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC to learn more. For a free consultation, call us at 856-235-7075 or complete our online form. Located in Atlantic City and Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.