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Laws protect you against sexual harassment at work

Posted on March 26, 2012 in Newsletters

Whether you are a male or female, there are federal laws designed to protect you from sexual harassment at work. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that it received more than 11,700 sexual harassment charges in 2010.

sexual harassmentAccording to the EEOC, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This section of the Civil Rights Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.

The EEOC describes sexual harassment as any of the following:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harass ment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

The EEOC points out that it is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

Persons who believe they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment at work should contact an attorney and/or file a formal complaint with the EEOC. Visit www.eeoc.gov for more information.

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