Sexual Harassment LawsuitAnyone who feels victimized by sexual harassment may speak confidentially to one of our attorneys in a free legal consultation. Our experienced sexual harassment lawyers can evaluate your potential claim for possible legal action at no cost to you.
What constitutes Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Sexual harassment” broadly describes unwelcome sexual advances, sexual requests, verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature. A federal law, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. The law applies to entities employing 15 or more people, including federal, state, and local governments.
Despite Title VII protections, many people across the country still face workplace sexual harassment. It may be wise to learn the basics of sexual harassment and guidelines for stopping it, if you believe you are being sexually harassed at work.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Two basic forms of sexual harassment are 1. quid pro quo and 2. hostile work environment.
1. Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo refers to an employment decision – such as a promotion, an assignment, or even simply keeping one’s job. It is based on one’s submission to the sexual harassment. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature constitute quid pro quo sexual harassment when (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used for making employment decisions.
2. Hostile work environment
Hostile work environment sexual harassment makes one’s workplace environment intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute hostile-environment sexual harassment when the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Courts consider several factors to determine whether an environment is hostile. Factors include: (1) whether the conduct was verbal, physical, or both; (2) the conduct’s frequency; (3) whether the conduct was hostile or patently offensive; (4) whether the alleged harasser was a co-worker or supervisor; (5) whether others joined in perpetrating the harassment; (6) whether the harassment was directed at more than one person.
Behaviors that constitute Sexual Harassment
Behavior constituting sexual harassment can vary depending on situations and people involved. Behaviors might include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, direct or indirect threats or bribes for sexual activity, sexual innuendo, comments, sexually suggestive jokes, unwelcome touching or brushing against a person, material displays of sexually illicit or graphic content, attempted or completed sexual assault.
Same Sex Harassment
Any male or female can be a victim of sexual harassment, according to Title VII. The victim need not need to be of the opposite sex. A man could harass another man, or a woman another woman. The victim or the harasser may be a man or woman.
Harassers need not be supervisors. Behavior may still constitute sexual harassment even if the harasser is a co-worker, a supervisor in another area, or even a person not employed in the victim’s workplace. A sexual harassment victim does not necessarily need to be the person directly being (allegedly) harassed. The victim could be an employee who is indirectly but negatively affected by the offensive conduct.
Single Incident Sexual Harassment
In quid pro quo cases, a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the granting or denial of employment or employment benefits. A single incident or isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally are not sufficient evidence of a hostile environment, unless the conduct is severe. A hostile-environment claim usually requires proof of a pattern of offensive conduct. But a single, unusually severe incident of harassment may be sufficient to constitute a Title VII violation. The more severe the harassment, the less need to show a repetitive series of incidents. This is particularly true when the harassment is physical.
Employer Punishment for Sexual Harassment Complaints
Title VII forbids employers from retaliating against anyone who files a charge of harassment or speaks out against harassment. Title VII also protects from retaliation if one chooses to participate in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing on behalf of a co-worker who one believes has had his or her rights violated under Title VII.
State Laws against Sexual Harassment
Some states have adopted stronger protections against sexual harassment beyond Title VII. Your state’s relevant laws are available on the web, or you can contact an employment lawyer in your state.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit – Free Legal Consultation
Anyone who feels victimized by sexual harassment may speak confidentially to one of our attorneys in a free legal consultation. Our experienced sexual harassment attorneys can evaluate your potential claim for possible legal action at no cost to you.
- American Association of University Women
- Title VII – Civil Rights Act of 1964
- EEOC Study on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (2016)
- Contact a Sexual Harassment Attorney
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