Sexual Harassment FAQs

These are answers to some basic sexual harassment FAQs. If you're wondering if you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or what types of recourse you have then read below.

Sexual harassment FAQs:

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual advances or conduct or obscene remarks made toward you in a job environment. The conduct must be unwelcome and must affect either the victim’s employment, unreasonably interfere with their work performance, or it must create a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment. It does not have to cause any economic injury to the victim. The sexual advances can be verbal or physical conduct.

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. Sexual harassment violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

How can you win a sexual harassment claim if it is your word against your harassers?

Keeping a diary of times, dates, and behaviors, along with written proof, such as in an email, that you asked your harasser to stop their behavior, are beneficial to proving your case.

Does the sexual harasser have to be someone of the opposite sex?

Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. While statistically, women are often the victims of sexual, it by no means, is limited to women. The victim and the harasser may be a man or a woman. Additionally, the victim does not have to be person of the opposite gender.

The harasser can be, but isn’t limited to being, the victim’s supervisor, a co-worker, or a non-employee. The victims can be employees or non-employees such as customers or venders.

Are there degrees of sexual harassment and if so how bad does the harassment have to be?

Like it says above, under "What is sexual harassment", any unwanted sexual advances or conduct that affects a person's employment, creates a hostile work environment, interferes with their work, or creates an intimidating environment is grounds for filing a claim. You do not have to wait for the sexual harassment to create a hostile work environment, however, to ask your harasser to stop. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, inform you harasser, in writing, that their conduct is unwelcome and that they need to stop. If they do not, take your complaint to a supervisor or to HR.

Does there have to be touching involved for it to be considered sexual harassment?

While it's a common belief that sexual harassment involves touching, it doesn't have to. Some examples of other types of sexual  harassment:

  • Sending sexually explicit emails;
  • Sexual explicit chatter/conversations in the workplace;
  • Offensive jokes;
  • Suggestive whistling or wolf calls;
  • Sexually provocative comments about a person's body;
  • or, Unsolicited and repetitively asking for dates or flirting.

What are the steps you should take if you've been sexually harassed?

The victim may find it helpful to inform their harasser that their conduct is unwanted and that it must stop happening. Be extremely clear to your harasser what the behavior was and that it was unwanted. The victim should inform their supervisor in writing of the unwanted conduct. If your job has a system it uses for filing complaints then that’s the best system to utilize.

Can employers fire you for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace?

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against you for reporting an instance or filing a claim of sexual harassment.

What are an employer's responsibilities?

It is an employer's obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, along with discrimination, from happening in the workplace. Typically, employers offer training to their employers on harassment and discrimination.

Additionally, employers cannot retaliate against any employee for filing a sexual harassment complaint.

 

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