What Defines Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is constantly a topic in the news, but most of the public is uncertain as to exactly what defines the behavior. In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared sexual harassment to be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Essentially there are two different forms of sexual harassment. The first, “quid pro quo,” is when an employer, supervisor or manager asks an employee or applicant for sexual favors in return for something. This can be employment, a raise, a bonus or any other kind of benefits.

The second form of sexual harassment is the “hostile work environment,” which is often less clearly defined. This can range from jokes and comments to sexual photographs in the work place. Many employees subjected to a hostile work environment may not even be aware of it. If the behavior is reported and does not stop, it is a sign of a systematic problem in the workplace, and you need to consult with an attorney.

If you believe you are subject to sexual harassment, try to document any and all incidents with as much detail as possible. Many people who are subject to sexual harassment are scared and afraid no one will believe their claims. Even if your coworkers or managers are dismissive of your complaints, consult an attorney to understand your rights in the workplace.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—California employment attorneys

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