Sexual harassment is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that in a direct or indirect way does one of the following:
- affects your employment;
- unreasonably interferes with your performance at work; or
- creates a work environment that is intimidating, offensive, or hostile
Sexual harassment has been declared illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the American with Disability Act of 1990.
Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion, and it applies to employees including federal, sate, and local governments. Even with Title VII’s protetions, many people across the United States still face sexual harassment in their workplaces. Here are a few possible cases that may be considered sexual harassment:
- You feel scared and upset at work because your co-workers are always staring at your breasts, telling dirty jokes, and saying sexual things about you. You have reported it to your supervisor but nothing is done about it. Your supervisor allows the bahavior to continue.
- A supervisor makes sexual advances towards you at work against your will. You are afraid to say anything because you are scared of losing your job.
- An employer or co-worker who touches or caresses you in a suggestive manner, especially if there are multiple incidents.
- A co-worker or employer who who insists on rubbing your shoulders even though you have asked them to stop.
Types of sexual harassment
There are two types of sexual harassment at workplace namely:
Quid pro quo – this is when your employment benefits (i.e. getting a raise, not getting fired etc) are tied to giving into your supervisor’s unwelcome sexual advances. (Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase yhay basically means “one thing in return for another”). For example, you supervisor may tell you that you will get a promotion if you hug him/her. This type of sexual harassment only applies in cases where the harasser is a supervisor, because a supervisor has the power to grant or withhold employment benefits.it is imperative to note that even if you agree to do what the supervisor asks, it could still be considered sexual harassment as long as the sexual advances were “unwelcome”.
Hostile work environment – this is when you have to deal with offensive comments, unwelcome physical conduct, or you are exposed to offensive sexual materials as a regular part of the work environment. Generally, a single isolated incident will not be considered sexual harassment unless the behavior was extremely outrageous. The hostile work environment can be created by supervisors, managers, co-workers, or customers. Employers may be responsible for the sexual harassment by any of these people if the employer does not take steps to stop the harassment when he/she becomes aware of it. Also, the employer could be liable for the harassment of manager or supervisors if he/she does not take appropriate steps to prevent and then correct this behavior.
If you think you are being sexually harassed, there are some things you may want to consider doing including telling the harasser, verbally, in writing or via email, that you do not approve of his his/her behavior, reporting the harassment to the supervisor or supervisor’s boss (if the supervisor is the harasser) as soon as possible, or filing a formal complaint either with your place of employment or your union if these options are available to you.
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