Have You Been A Victim Of Sexual Harassment?

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In our first article on the topic of sexual harassment we discovered that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines consider two types of sexual harassment when reviewing claims. First is "Quid Pro Quo" and second is "Hostile Work Environment" sexual harassment. Both types of sexual harassment are actionable under section 70, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)., as forms of sex discrimination. It is important to consider your situation and determine if you have been a victim of either workplace sexual harassment. Distinguishing between these two types of sexual harassment is important because it is necessary when determining the employer's liability.

"Quid pro quo harassment" occurs when "submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual," 29 C.F.R § 1604.11(a)(2). The phrase essentially means "something for something," or "this for that." Some Courts often use the term "tangible employment action," instead, when describing this type of harassment. In this type of harassment an employee is expected to submit to an employer's sexual advances in return for a promotion or positive review, and if they do not do so they will acquire some sort of punishment or detriment to their career. In "quid pro quo" cases a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the granting or denial of employment benefits.

Before taking action to report "Quid pro quo harassment" here are some steps to take first:

1. Document each instance of your employer requesting sexual favors, making inappropriate comments, or unwanted sexual contact

  1. Document each instance of a tangible employment action effected by your reaction to the unwanted advances
  2. Privately gather documentation provided by your employer regarding their policies on sexual harassment

"Hostile Work Environment harassment" occurs when an employee is subject to unwelcome advances, sexual innuendos, or offensive gender-related language that is sufficiently severe or pervasive from the perspective of a reasonable person of the same gender as the offended employee.

When the Courts are determining if a violation has occurred under "Hostile Work Environment harassment" the harasser's conduct should be evaluated from the standpoint of a "reasonable person." If the conduct or event would not substantially affect the work environment of a "reasonable person" no violation should be found. Sexual flirtation, or even vulgar language that is merely annoying or trivial, would not constitute a disruption of the work environment and likely would not establish a hostile work environment. Isolated instances of harassment do not constitute an abusive work environment. Unless the conduct is considerably severe, a single incident of offensive sexual conduct maybe not be sufficient to establish a "hostile work environment." Claims of this nature of require showing a pattern of offensive conduct.

Before taking action to report "Hostile Work Environment harassment" here are some factors provided by the EEOC, which you should first consider:

1. Whether the conduct was verbal or physical, or both;

2. How frequently it was repeated;

3. Whether the conduct was hostile and obviously offensive;

4. Whether the alleged harasser was a co-worker or a supervisor;

5. Whether other joined in perpetrating the harassment; and

6. Whether the harassment was directed at more than one individual

It is our hope that offering concrete strategies and information will help more women and men feel safer in the work place and have the proper tools to fight back. Documenting harassment and retaliation, working collectively with other employees, and publicizing abuse can all be effective.

If you believe you may be a victim of sexual harassment in your workplace, please call Attorney Bruce Newman today at 860.583.5200.