Sexual Harassment & Discrimination
Sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace are illegal under federal, state and local laws. Under the law, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.Sexual harassment is a serious matter that manifests in different ways. There are generally two types of sexual harassment recognized by the law: “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.” “Quid pro quo”, translates as “this for that” and signifies a trade, such as sex in return for a promotion. It is illegal for a superior to demand sex in exchange for benefits in the workplace or as a condition of employment.
“Hostile work environment” harassment includes any situation in which an employer, supervisor or co-worker engages in conduct that makes an employee feel uncomfortable and is in some way based on the employee’s sex or gender. Although a hostile work environment may exist simultaneously with a quid pro quo situation, a hostile work environment can occur without any demand for sex in exchange for an employment benefit. Courts have found that sexual jokes, offensive pictures, unwanted touching, leering, and requests for dates constitute sexual harassment in certain cases. The conduct must be offensive and unwanted by the victim.
Examples of sexual harassment and discrimination include your boss or any higher-up pressuring you for sex, offensive and sexual physical touching or contact, demands for sex in exchange for a promotion, repeated offensive comments, display of pornography or other lewd materials, or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature that generate an uncomfortable or hostile work environment. The harasser could be a supervisor, a co-worker, or even someone who is not an employee in some limited circumstances, and sexual harassment can occur between people of different sexes or the same sex. Employees are also protected from retaliation for complaints about harassment or discrimination.
Sexual harassment is still alive in the workplace. Male boss and female subordinate? Female boss and male subordinate? Same sex harassment? We have seen all kinds of sexual harassment, from repeated uncomfortable comments to extreme demands for physical gratification. Documentation is key – keep a journal detailing instances of inappropriate sexual harassment, including the dates, what happened and any witnesses. Look to gather other evidence of the sexual harassment. Has your employer been contacting you on an outside community board such as Facebook? Are you able to obtain an admission from your harasser via email or text message?
In some states you are permitted to make audio recordings of conversations to which you are a party. Click here to see your state's laws about recording in-person and telephone conversations. If you live in a "one party" state, you may have the right to make audio recordings of conversations between you and your harasser. Are you able to obtain an audio recording of the harassment or of an admission from your harasser?
While sexual discrimination most often affects women in the workplace, men are also protected by sexual harassment and discrimination laws. The attorneys at Pelton Graham LLC have represented both men and women in sexual harassment claims.
Sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims can be hard to prove. For this reason, it is crucial to document every episode of harassment and collect as much evidence as possible regarding your employment situation. If you believe you have suffered severe sexual harassment or discrimination, contact Pelton Graham LLC to discuss your legal options.