SEXUAL HARASSMENT , SEXUALLY HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

Sexual Harassment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

What is it?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment may take the form of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex/gender. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Who is protected under the law?

Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment.  Also, the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex as same-sex harassment can occur. The victim does not have to be the person targeted by the harasser, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or even a non-employee such as a client, customer or contractor.

Reporting Sexual Harassment

It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. If the employer has a complaint mechanism or grievance system available, the employee must report the sexual harassment.

Unlawful Retaliation

Not only is it illegal to sexually harass and employee, but once that employee complains about the sexual harassment it is illegal for the employer to retaliate against that employee for their complaint. In other words, it is illegal for the employer to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise “retaliate” against people because they complained about the sexual harassment or because they participated in an investigation or claim regarding sexual harassment.

Contributed by Attorney Temple Trueblood