Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
What Is Sexual Harassment?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency responsible for enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. It defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature” in the workplace. Sexual harassment can take place between the victim and a superior, supervisor, co-worker, or non-employee, such as a client or customer. Perpetrators can be both male and female, and the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
According to the EEOC, simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents are not recognized as sexual harassment. To constitute illegal sexual harassment, the conduct must be severe or pervasive, often indicated by a pattern of behavior. There are two types of illegal sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile or offensive work environment.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:
- Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault;
- Unwelcome deliberate touching;
- Pressure for sexual favors;
- Unwelcome and inappropriate comments;
- Unwanted gifts or communications;
- Treating employees differently based on their gender; and
- Retaliation against an employee for a sexual harassment complaint.
What Constitutes a Hostile or Offensive Work Environment?
This form of sexual harassment is categorized by a work environment that is hostile or abusive due to the unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of an employee or non-employee such as an outside sales representative or delivery person. The unwanted verbal or physical conduct must be severe or pervasive. Courts have described such conduct as that which creates an “arbitrary barrier to sexual equality at the workplace.”
Do I Need New Jersey Workplace Harassment Lawyers?
You may have experienced workplace harassment in your own occupation. If so, you have options and help is available. A hostile work environment can take a toll in several ways.
Consider whether it’s time to hire New Jersey workplace harassment lawyers. An attorney can help you decide if you have a strong legal case against your employer due to the treatment to which you have been subjected.
If you’re not sure whether you need a lawyer yet, don’t worry, an attorney who is knowledgeable in workplace sexual harassment lawyer can help you consider your situation and options. Check out this guide to consider some questions you may have as a start.Read More
How do you prove sexual harassment?
There are many steps you can take to document and prove sexual harassment cases. It is helpful to keep track of the nature of the harassment, when the harassment occurred, who was involved, the location of the harassment, and if there were any witnesses. You should also tell the harasser their actions are unwelcome and making him or her uncomfortable. If the harassment continues you should inform your manager and consult the employee handbook about formal complaints. You must follow any sexual harassment policies your employer put in place. If that means reporting the event to a manager then you must take that step before pursuing action with the EEOC.Read More
How Do I File a Complaint for Harassment?
What To Do
If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, you should take detailed notes of the harassment. This documentation can help with your sexual harassment claim and any potential, future litigation. These detailed records should include:
- Nature of the harassment
- When and where harassment took place
- Who was involved
- Any potential witnesses to the harassment
Next, you should contact a New Jersey sexual harassment attorney. A sexual harassment lawyer can inform you of your rights and any potential options going forward.Read More
Do Unwelcome Comments Qualify as Actionable Conduct?
Unsolicited comments of a sexual nature made on the job can leave an employee feeling threatened or uncomfortable, thereby giving rise to a claim of sexual harassment. Critical to prevailing on a claim for sexual harassment is establishing that a comment was unwelcome. When one party has made no effort to initiate the conversation, nor encouraged the conversation to continue, they may reasonably argue that the offensive and objectionable language was unwelcome.
Some comments may be more objectionable than others, but there is a wide range of conduct which constitutes as sexual harassment. Derogatory or lewd remarks about a coworker’s anatomy, making sexually suggestive jokes, or speaking freely about sexual exploits will understandably make many within earshot uncomfortable.
How Can I Prevent Incidents at Company Events and Holiday Parties?
There are measures that employers can take to protect employees and attendees at these parties. For example, employers may choose not to serve alcohol, or have less alcohol available, via a drink ticket system or otherwise.
Other actions can also prevent disasters, such as choosing not to hang mistletoe, avoiding dancing, hiring security or staff to keep an eye out for individual welfare, and making sure that staffers can invite spouses and family members. Increasing the amount of food that is available is also something that several employers are doing at these parties in order to ensure that everyone is well-fed.
Employees and attendees drinking and driving home is another serious liability concern. Make sure that someone is responsible for monitoring consumption and ensuring no one is driving home if they are unable to do so safely.
How Can Legal Agreements Silence Victims of Sexual Assault?
Forms of legal agreements may be misused to silence victims. One highly-publicized case is that of Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood producer accused of sexually harassing various employees at his company for decades. He allegedly used non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidential, out-of-court settlements to prevent these stories from being exposed. NDAs, out-of-court settlements, and arbitration agreements are all legal agreements that can hinder victims from speaking out publicly.
What Are the Health Impacts of Unwanted Sexual Advances?
At minimum, sexual harassment harms the self-confidence of a person. It is well-known that confidence leads to increased productivity, so it should be a concern of the employer.
Beyond this, studies have shown that unwanted sexual advances can cause depression, PTSD, suicide, high blood pressure (HBP), and neck and spinal pain.Read More
What Is Quid Pro Quo?
Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning “this for that”. It occurs when the victim’s response to sexual advances is used as a basis for employment decisions, such as the firing or demotion of the employee. Such sexual advances do not have to be overt; the request can be hinted at or communicated non-verbally. If a supervisor offers an employee a raise that is contingent upon his or her agreement to engage in sexual acts, that behavior constitutes quid pro quo harassment.
What is the Statute of Limitations for New Jersey Survivors of Sexual Abuse?
Adult survivors of sexual assault have up to 37 years after turning 18 to file a civil lawsuit and recover damages for emotional or psychological injuries stemming from the abuse. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse can bring their claim up until they turn 55. Those over age 55 have up to seven years after they discover or realize they had been sexually abused to file a claim.
Are There Any Industry-Specific Standards to Protect Hospitality Workers from Sexual Harassment?
The American Hotel and Lodging Association joined forces with leading hotel chains to set new standards for preventing sexual harassment and assault of the millions of employees working in hotels and resorts throughout the U.S. Their efforts culminated in a 5-Star Promise to create a culture where every hotel worker feels safe from harassment. The 5-Star Promise asks hotel management to:
- Create an environment that focuses on people first;
- Institute mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies;
- Introduce training programs to help workers recognize and prevent sexual harassment;
- Partner with outside agencies to receive ongoing guidance for keeping workers safe; and
- Provide personal safety devices to all hotel workers nationwide by 2020.
What Actions Should an Employer Take if They Learn an Employee is Being Harassed Using Electronic Communications Tools?
The employer should take the same actions it would if the employee was present in the workplace. Employees are prohibited from harassing other employees through, for example, emails, calls, or video/chat communication.
With teleworking being the “new normal,” is it still possible for harassment to occur?
Yes. Harassment may occur using electronic communication tools – regardless of whether employees are in the workplace, teleworking, or on leave – and also in person between employees at the worksite.Read More
What Do I Do if I’m Being Harassed at Work?
If you have experienced or are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to take detailed notes of the harassment. These notes can help record sexual harassment activity. Your documentation should include:
- The nature of the sexual harassment
- Who was involved
- The location and time of harassment
- Any witnesses to the harassment
If you are comfortable doing so, ask your harasser to stop. You can also file a formal complaint.