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- Sexual Harassment FAQs
What is sexual harassment?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature ... when ... submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions... or such conduct has the purpose or effect of ... creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.” If you have experienced sexual harassment at your workplace, fill out our free case review form today to find out if you have a case.
What are some examples of sexual harassment?
The following have been considered sexual harassment: repeated, sexually suggestive jokes or remarks; e-mails, faxes, or letters of a sexual nature; sexual propositions; sex as a condition of employment; leering; hanging of pornographic materials; unwanted touching; sexually-oriented name calling; and repeated, unwanted sexual overtures.
What should I do if I’m a victim of sexual harassment?
First, inform the harasser that their advances are unwelcome. If the harassment continues, keep a log of the time, location, place, names of witnesses and details of each incident. You should also report the harassment to your employer and use your company’s grievance procedure. This is especially important because many sexual harassment victims will not be awarded damages if they do not use the company’s complaint process. It is important to ensure that filed complaints are in writing, as to provide proof.
Sexual harassment victims also have the option of contacting an attorney. If you would like to speak with a sexual harassment attorney, fill out our free case review form on the right. A sexual harassment lawyer can offer advice for handling your claim and recording important evidence. He or she can also help if you are retaliated against for filing a sexual harassment claim. In addition, a sexual harassment lawyer can help you file a claim with the EEOC, which is the first step in pursuing compensation from a sexual harassment lawsuit.
If an employee eventually partakes in a sexual relationship with a co-worker or supervisor, is it still considered sexual harassment?
Perhaps. If the relationship began with unwelcome and pervasive behavior, a hostile work environment may have existed before the relationship became consensual. In addition, quid pro quo harassment could be alleged if the employee accepted an unwanted sexual request from their supervisor to keep their job. When a sexual relationship continues, it becomes hard to prove that the initial advances were unwelcome. However, sexual harassment claims have been brought on behalf of individuals who eventually succumbed to a consensual relationship with another employee.
Are employees protected from same-sex harassment?
Yes. The Supreme Court has held that same-sex harassment is illegal under federal law. The Supreme Court has also unanimously agreed that the sexual orientation of the harasser is not a factor.
Harassment does not need to be motivated by sexual desire. Sex discrimination can occur, for instance, if a woman is harassed in sex-specific, degrading terms by another female. The same goes for men who are discriminated against by other men. Sexual harassment can be alleged if the harasser is motivated by the gender of their target.
Do employees have legal recourse if an employee is favored because of sexual favors?
Yes. If a worker is given a raise, promotion, etc. because they have agreed to perform sexual favors at the expense of other workers, a hostile work environment may exist.
How much time do I have to file a sexual harassment claim?
In some states, employees are given 180 days from the date of harassment to file a claim with the EEOC. However, if a “work-sharing” agreement exists between the federal agency and the state’s EEOC counterpart, the employee may have up to 300 days. In general, contacting a sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible can help protect your rights by ensuring the time limit does not run out.
Can I be fired for filing a sexual harassment claim?
Federal law makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who file sexual harassment claims, help with an investigation or oppose harassing behavior. If you have been fired, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for exercising your employee rights, contact the EEOC or an attorney immediately. Even if you have already filed a sexual harassment claim, you will need to file another charge for your employer’s retaliation.
Does a single incident constitute sexual harassment?
It depends. If an employee is victim to quid pro quo harassment (sexual favors in exchange for job benefits), a single sexual advance can constitute sexual harassment. However, in a hostile work environment case, the victim must be exposed to a repeated pattern of harassing conduct.