Sexual harassment at the workplace is more than just unethical, it is illegal. There are laws at both the state and federal level that offer protection and allow victims to hold their employers accountable for unwelcome sexual advances within the workplace.
Unfortunately, even with these laws in place sexual harassment continues to plague workplaces throughout the country. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that there were over 5,500 charges of sexual harassment filed with the agency in 2021 alone.
If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment within the workplace, know that you are not alone. You have options to fight back. The following will dive into the basics and discuss some options for recourse.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment can range from the flagrant like a promotion contingent on completion of sexual acts, to the less obvious like offhand sexual comments. But sexual harassment is not always sexual in nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.
A single offhand comment is unlikely to rise to the level of sexual harassment. However, frequent, or severe comments that result in a hostile work environment or lead to an adverse employment decision are likely to qualify as acts of sexual harassment.
What does the court look for when deciding a sexual harassment case?
The details will vary depending on the case, but it is important to know that courts will look at various elements. These can include:
- Superior. The alleged offender holds a superior position, such as a team lead, boss, or manager.
- Employment action. There was a negative action, such as termination from a position or a negative assignment.
- Unwelcome. The harassing conduct is unwelcomed.
It is also important to note that there is often a time limit associated with these claims. The EEOC notes that those who wish to hold an employer accountable generally only have 180 days to file a charge, though state law may extend this deadline.