Workplace Sexual Harassment

People may dislike their jobs for a variety of reasons: they do work that bores them, they are not paid enough, or they do not get along with their supervisors. However, some people do not just dislike their jobs; they are actually afraid to go to work because they are victims of workplace sexual harassment. Victims of sexual harassment often feel fear, guilt and confusion because they do not know what to do or what their options are. It is important for Missouri employees to understand what the definition of sexual harassment is and what types of behaviors can be considered harassment in order to protect themselves.

Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment

Under federal law, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and is therefore illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” The harassment must also do one of the following:

  • Affect employment
  • Unreasonably interfere with an employee’s job performance
  • Make the work environment “intimidating, offensive, or hostile”

Some examples of behaviors that could be sexual harassment include unwanted touching, sexual advances, sexual jokes, comments about body parts or clothing, posting sexually suggestive pictures in the workplace and other similar behavior.

Types of Sexual Harassment

The EEOC classifies sexual harassment into two categories:

  • Quid pro quo harassment: happens when one employee promises another employee career advancement, or threatens another’s job, in exchange for sexual favors.
  • Hostile work environment harassment: occurs when an employee’s workplace is so infused with sexual incidents, attitudes or behaviors that intimidate or offend the employee that the employee finds it difficult to perform his or her job duties. This type of harassment is far more common but more difficult to prove.

Myths About Sexual Harassment

Some of the confusion surrounding sexual harassment stems from the myths associated with it. Some believe that all sexual harassment is sexually motivated, or that it is not possible for a woman to harass another woman or a man to harass a man. Some even believe that only women experience workplace sexual harassment.

All of these misconceptions can prevent people from reporting behavior that is sexual harassment. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, do not hesitate to contact an attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options to remedy the situation.