Employment and Sexual Harassment

An accurate depiction of the scope of employment sexual harassment in the United States is truly hard to quantify by and large.  Numerous upon numerous numbers of these instances of illegal and unethical behaviors occur each and every day; however, due to a lack of knowledge on their rights or out of fear, many employees refuse to file employment sexual harassment suits.  According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008, the annual total of employment sexual harassment cases that are actually filed with the EEOC is about 15,000.  Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by men and women, and in addition, victims can be either men or women.  In the year 2007, for example, about sixteen percent of the claims filed with the EEOC involved a male employee complaining about sexual harassment they were forced to endure.  The stereotypical case of sexual harassment may involve a male employee overly being suggestive or affectionate towards young female employees, however, statistics constantly rebuke this claim and show that harassment victims can be either gender, any race, religion, or age.  Anyone can become or already is a victim of employment sexual harassment.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

The EEOC, on behalf of the United States government, formed a concrete definition of sexual harassment in the United States in 1980.  The definition is based in part by the rights specified to all individuals in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The EEOC deems behaviors as sexual harassment when victims experience unwelcome sexual advances, queries for sex, or experience spoken or acted incidents that prove sexual in nature when these acts include the following conditions:

  • The alleged actions caused interference with a victim’s work, work environment, or their safety
  • The rejection of sexual advances by sexual harassers caused detrimental retaliatory actions in a victim’s employment or career advancement
  • The submission to sexually harassing actions was either overtly or subtly noted as a condition to the terms of employment

The Victims Role in Sexual Harassment

Many victims of sexual harassment do not even realize the paramount of importance they have in taking it upon themselves to stop these actions towards themselves and other potential future victims like themselves.  In fact, many do not report these actions out of fear of losing their job or suffering employment hardship, which in itself is a form of sexual harassment.  An employment attorney can confidentially assist victims in assessing their sexual harassment case, and in turn, work with victims to have their rights in the workplace restored and compensation awarded.  For an individual to file civil litigation against a company or employer under the guise of violating federal ant-sexual harassment laws and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a complaint must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and an employment lawyer will help victims document all necessary items in the case to prove the veracity of their complaints as well as ensure any and all ensuing retaliatory action by companies for filing the complaint is punished exponentially in the court of law.  Action must be taken swiftly, however, as time frames are imposed by the government that will potentially prevent victims from filing private litigation against employers if victims hesitate to voice violations of their rights too long.  Violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are an egregious issue that no jury or judge takes lightly, and damages awarded in these cases often compensate victims, put punitive damages on companies, and set an example to other companies that may choose to engage or encourage this illegal behavior in the future.

Sexual Harassment Precedents

Employment sexual harassment cases have several notable precedents in the legal system to follow in regards to explicitly defining victims rights during any and all sexual harassment cases.  For example in regards to actions taken by employers in response to an employee filing a sexual harassment complaints against a company, the 2006 of Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White  case made it illegal for employers to promote an environment that would dissuade any employee from filing a sexual harassment complaint.  Additionally, the Burlington v. Ellerth case and the Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, Florida case both set the precedent that states companies are liable for actions of other employees that are proven to be employment sexual harassment.   

Aside from the stereotypical case of male supervisors harassing a young female employee, the modern workforce consists of a wide variety of sexual orientations and even gender ambiguities as well.  The Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services case set the legal precedent equal rights for victims of same-sex harassment instances.  Additionally, this case went to further expand the definition of sexual harassment to include actions not intended with sexual desire.  Actions such as these include promoting a workplace environment disregarding sexual harassment laws including jokes, pranks, or other forms of harassment that are even in slightest manner sexual at all. 

Do you or someone you know need to help in retaining your legal rights as an employment sexual harassment victim?  Contact an employment sexual harassment lawyer today!

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