Attitudes toward women in the workplace have changed dramatically over the past few decades, largely for the better. However, despite progress being made toward accepting women as equals on the job, sexual harassment in the workplace remains a problem in the United States.
According to a 2017 CNBC All-American Survey, approximately one-fifth of American adults have experienced workplace sexual harassment. Ten percent of men reported being sexually harassed on the job, while 27 percent of female employees reported being sexually harassed.
Regardless of whether the victim is a male or female, sexual harassment in the workplace is expressly forbidden by state and federal law. Because employment-based sexual harassment and discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it falls under the enforcement of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This federal agency is tasked with eliminating sex-based barriers to equal employment opportunity.
The EEOC offers a variety of helpful information for employees who find themselves being sexually harassed on the job. The EEOC also provides definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment, and what victims can do to seek help. If you're being sexually harassed in the workplace, here's what you need to know.
Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
Federal law protects workers against harassment or discrimination based on their sex. Sexual harassment is one of the most common types of sex-based on-the-job discrimination. According to the EEOC, sexual harassment can include:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
Harassment of a sexual nature isn't the only kind of sex-based discrimination that occurs in the workplace. It's also illegal to make offensive comments about a person because of their sex, or make disparaging comments about their entire gender.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment is behavior that can negatively affect a person's employment, whether by interfering with the victim's work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Examples of offensive conduct can include:
- Sexually suggestive jokes
- Sexual slurs or nicknames
- Sexual intimidation
- Offensive photos or videos
- Physical touching, threats or assaults
- Ridicule, mockery, or insults in retaliation for refusing advances
In some cases, victims may be demoted or even fired for refusing to put up with a harasser's sexual advances; however, victims of on-the-job sexual harassment may have grounds for a lawsuit even if they haven't sustained economic injuries.
The subject of a sexual harassment complaint can be the victim's supervisor, the supervisor of another department, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or even someone who isn't an employee. Additionally, the person bringing the sexual harassment complaint doesn't have to be the victim of the harassment—it can be anyone affected by the offensive and unlawful conduct.
Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment victims may be reluctant to report their abuse for fear of retaliation. Fortunately, it's illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who oppose employment practices that violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC recommends that the employee experiencing sexual harassment confront the harasser directly to let them know that their advances are unwanted and unwelcome. If that doesn't stop the harassment, the EEOC urges victims to take advantage of whatever employer complaint mechanism or grievance system at their disposal.
If all else fails, victims of workplace sexual harassment can contact the EEOC and ask them to begin an investigation into the harassment and hostile work environment.
Deadlines for Filing Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment claims have shortened time limits for filing claims so a victim needs to be prepared to act following the act of sexual harassment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one place where a victim can submit a claim of sexual harassment. The time limit to file an EEOC claim is only 180 days from the date of the last incident. Alternatively, in California, a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) must be within one year following the last incident of sexual harassment. A victim can have the DFEH investigate the claim or ask for a Right to Sue letter to bring a lawsuit on their own. There are some exceptions that a good sexual harassment can evaluate the claim and potentially apply those exemptions.
Consult an Experienced California Sexual Harassment Attorney
Employers should take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplace, including clearly communicating a no-tolerance policy to employees. Those who fail to take the necessary precautions may be held liable, especially if the harassment leads to a negative employment outcome, such as failure to hire or promote, lost wages, or termination.
Are you experiencing workplace sexual harassment? Contact the Inland Empire Law Group at (888) 694-3529 to schedule an appointment for a free and confidential initial case consultation to find out how our attorneys can help.