Sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful under federal and state laws. Despite the prohibitions against it, it continues to be a serious problem in workplaces throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the rest of the U.S. If you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, it is important for you to understand your rights. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler offer help to the victims of workplace sexual harassment.
What is workplace sexual harassment?
While people might be sexually harassed by others in public, sexual harassment is illegal under anti-discrimination laws when it occurs at your job. Sexual harassment is defined as harassing behavior because of your sex. It can include inappropriate comments, unwanted touching, unwelcome advances, obscene jokes, displays of pornographic materials, and other similar behavior that is directed towards you because of your sex.
Both women and men can be the victims of workplace sexual harassment. However, women are more frequently the targets of this type of behavior. Men should still be aware that this type of behavior that is directed at them is similarly unlawful. The harasser may also be the same sex as the victim as long as the behavior is because of the sex of the victim.
Two most common types of illegal workplace sexual harassment
There are two primary types workplace sexual harassment that are illegal, including quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a job benefit or an adverse action are contingent on providing sexual favors. For example, if your boss conditions you getting a promotion based on your agreement to submit to unwelcome sexual advances, it is quid pro quo harassment. It does not matter if you submit or not. Similarly, if your boss threatens to fire you unless you provide sexual favors to him or her, it is also quid pro quo harassment.
Hostile workplace environment sexual harassment is a situation in which a coworker, supervisor, or client engages in communication, action, or behavior towards you based on your sex that is pervasive and severe enough that it changes the terms and conditions of your job. A single incident is normally not enough. For example, if your coworker tells you an obscene joke one time, that is not enough. If your coworker tells you repeated sexual jokes multiple times per day and continues despite your complaints, it may be enough to constitute hostile work environment sexual harassment.
Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace
The first step that you should take if you are dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is to tell the perpetrator to stop. If this is ineffective, you should file a written complaint with the human resources department or with your supervisor. If your supervisor is the perpetrator, go above his or her head. Your company should investigate your complaint and take steps to address the behavior. If it does not do so or retaliates against you for complaining, you can file a discrimination charge with the EEOC. Retaliation will constitute a separate cause of action.
Contact Swartz Swidler
While progress has been made, there is still much to be done to end the problem of workplace sexual harassment. If you are the victim of harassment, contact Swartz Swidler to learn what you might be able to do to end it.