Definition and Types of Sexual Harassment at Workplaces

Definition and Types of Sexual Harassment at Workplaces

What is sexual harassment?

According to the definition clearly made by the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or EEOC, sexual harassment refers to unwanted sexual advances or behaviors of sexual nature that arbitrarily interferes with an employee’s job-related performance or creates a hostile and overall, unpleasant ambience at the workplace.

Sexual harassment can take different forms, ranging from persistent sexual jokes to posting offensive erotic materials on a bulletin board to inappropriate touches. Sexual harassment at workplaces – from verbal to physical – is a serious offense. Surprising it may sound but both women and men are prey to sexual predators.

What are the laws against sexual harassment?

Both state and federal laws are in place as a safety net for the employees against all sorts of sexual harassment at workplaces. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964 explicitly states that sexual harassment is kind of sexual discrimination. Title VII is the foundation brick to enable a victim to file sexual harassment claims whereas states have more stringent sexual harassment laws.

If you have fallen prey to such an unwelcome situation and are thinking about bringing an allegation against the wrongdoer, you should talk to an eminent Connecticut workplace sexual harassment lawyer to check the laws in your state in this context.

This blog will introduce you to two kinds of workplace-related sexual harassment and employers’ responsibility to place a full stop to such an annoying behavior.

What are the different types of sexual harassment?

Title VII recognizes two types of sexual harassment at workplaces – Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment.

Quid Pro Quo: Under this form of sexual harassment, an individual in authority demands that his/her subordinates put up with sexual harassment in order to get or keep a job or enjoy job-related benefits such as, raises and promotions. Even if such harassment happens only once, that is enough to make a quid pro quo claim while repeated offenses – these set a pattern of sexual harassment –form the grounds for a hostile work environment.

Hostile Work Environment: It sets the ground for legal action if the conduct is of sexual nature and pervasive or severe enough to turn the work ambience offensive or abusive. Courts analyze a set of elements to determine validity of a hostile work environment harassment claim. These elements include:

  • Whether the unwelcome conduct was verbal, physical or a mix of both;
  • How frequently the conduct happened;
  • If the conduct was hostile or deliberately offensive
  • If it was a co-worker or supervisor who sexually harassed the claimant
  • If the alleged person was alone or joined by others in perpetrating the harassment
  • Whether the victim was the only person singled out or more than one person were victimized.

Any sexual harassment case requires the alleged victim to fulfill a subjective and objective standard. It implies, the plaintiff must establish that:

  • The victim subjectively believed the conduct was offensive, abusive or hostile and
  • Any reasonable individual in the claimant’s position would objectively call out the conduct offensive, abusive or hostile.

What is employer liability?

Title VII applies to employers having at least 15 employees. The companies having fewer than 15 workers are governed by state laws. Furthermore, more states have enacted laws to cover such issues. Irrespective of the nature of harassment, if allegation is proved, employers are obliged to compensate for punitive and compensatory damages. Liability is a function of two factors – the at-fault party, if he/she is a supervisor or co-worker and the corrective measures adopted by the company in question.

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