Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a common occurrence even though it is illegal. In some cases, sexual harassment can be so pervasive that it can have an impact on workplace productivity. Some employees who experience it might quit or may fear that they could lose their job if they report the behavior.

Harassment comes in two main forms. The first is quid pro quo, which involves an employee being required to submit to sexual activities in exchange for keeping a job or getting a promotion. The second form is a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment that makes the workplace offensive, intimidating or abusive is considered to make a hostile workplace environment. Sexual harassment can include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, harassment that is sexual in nature and offensive remarks about a person's sex or sex life.

Sexual harassment in the workplace becomes illegal when the conduct violates a person's protected status. For example, sexual harassment is considered to be sex discrimination, which is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further, sexual harassment might also be illegal if the conduct is not wanted, is viewed as offensive by the person who is affected by the conduct and creates a workplace environment a worker may find to be hostile.

When employers turn a blind eye to sexual harassment, employees may be afraid to come to work or may be forced to leave. In some cases, if employees report sexual harassment and the employer fails to put a stop to the incidents, the employer could be held responsible especially if an employee was fired over the allegations. An employment rights attorney may file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the employer seeking appropriate damages.

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Elizabeth D. Tate, Attorney at Law
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