According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is technically a type of employment discrimination. Harassment, as defined by the law, includes unwanted contact or conversation which is based on a person’s religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, or disability. Although it has been increasingly reported in the news, workplace sexual harassment is still largely misunderstood. There are two types of workplace sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. In this blog post, we will discuss hostile work environment sexual harassment, behavior that can be considered sexual harassment, and what to do if you are being harassed at work.
Behavior Must Meet Certain Requirements to Legally Be Considered Harassment
The term “harassment” often gets misused. For example, a co-worker who is constantly talking to others about his favorite TV show while they are trying to get their work done may be annoying, but he or she is probably not guilty of harassment. In order to meet the legal definition of sexual harassment, the following conditions must be present:
- The alleged harasser’s behavior is a condition of continued employment. If the only way a person can avoid the harassing behavior is to leave their job, this condition is met;
- The alleged victim has experienced unwanted contact or other interaction which is not appropriate for the workplace. Things like sexual comments, remarks about a person’s body or sexuality, unwanted hugs or shoulder rubs, sexually explicit images being posted in the workplace, repeated solicitations for dates or sexual interaction, and attempted or actual sexual/intimate physical contact can all be examples of harassing behavior;
- The inappropriate behavior is so severe or unrelenting that it creates a workplace any reasonable person would find threatening or hostile; and
- The employer does not sufficiently investigate or intervene when notified of the alleged sexual harassment.
What to Do If You Are Experiencing a Hostile Work Environment
If you are unable to complete your work because sexual harassment is making it impossible, do not hesitate to stand up for yourself. Federal law requires sexual harassment to be reported before you have the right to sue. If discussing your concerns with a supervisor or boss proves unhelpful, your next step is to start recording instances of harassment. Save any emails which are harassing in nature and make a note of verbal comments or altercations which occur. Lastly, do not wait to contact an experienced Allegheny County employment discrimination attorney for help building your case. To schedule a free, confidential consultation at the Colianni & Colianni, LLC, call 412-943-0007 today.