Our coworkers and supervisors must treat us with respect. Working in an offensive work environment can take away all the enthusiasm you have for your job, and you have the right to fight back if anyone is sexually harassing you at the workplace. More than 6,500 people filed sexual harassment claims in 2020 according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can also do this if you are experiencing this inappropriate conduct at work.
Identifying sexual harassment
Myriad federal and state laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It is also sexual harassment if someone you work with discriminates against you on the basis of your sex.
If your coworkers make offensive and sexual comments towards you, you have the right to stop their actions by filing a complaint with the state or the EEOC. You must keep in mind that simple teasing or isolated accidents might not rise to the level of sexual harassment. The offenses must have been severe and repetitive enough to create a hostile workplace environment.
Common myths of sexual harassment
Many people suffer from sexual harassment and do not file a complaint because they think their case doesn’t qualify. Sexual harassment is broad, and everyone can partake in it. That is why the EEOC recognizes that sexual harassment in the workplace can occur even when:
- The harasser is the same sex as the victim
- The harasser is not a supervisor or coworker, but is a non-employee (like a customer or patron of the business)
- The victim is not the person harassed, but the offensive conduct affects them as well
- The harassment occurs without economic injury to or discharge of the victim
Your harasser does not have to be of the opposite sex. They also don’t have to retaliate against you in any way for their actions to classify as harassment. Just by being offensive to you and creating a hostile work environment, they may be subject to legal action.
Ending the inappropriate conduct
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can stop this inappropriate conduct by filing a charge of harassment with the state or with the EEOC. If you decide to file with the EEOC, you must file the charge within 180 days after the harassment. That way, your coworker or employer will face the consequences of their inappropriate behavior, and you may help ensure that they don’t sexually harass anyone else in the future.