Sexual Harassment In Workplaces

The unwanted attention or harassment of a sexual nature is known as sexual harassment. This act may include behaviors such as mild annoyances and serious abuses. In serious cases, it may even be forced sexual behavior. Sexual harassment is considered illegal in most countries. This is a form of abuse that affects the victim both physically as well as psychologically.

The term sexual harassment came into existence in 1974. However, it was the United States Supreme Court that drew national attention to the issue. This attention did help prevent sexual harassment in workplaces and educational institutions. State and federal law protects employees, who face workplace sexual harassment. Federal law applies to employers who have fifteen or more employees. Employers having lesser employees are protected by state anti-discrimination laws.

State and federal laws vary in the matter of same-sex sexual harassment. Federal law gives them the opportunity to claim against an employer. Sexual workplace harassment can be of two types, namely quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Sexual harassment that is tolerated by an employee to maintain his/her job, promotion, or job benefit is known as quid pro quo harassment. The harassment that affects the performance of an employee or creates an offensive, hostile, or abusive work environment for the employee is known as hostile work environment harassment.

To establish quid pro quo harassment, a single incident may be sufficient. But to establish hostile work environment harassment, a continuous pattern of conduct is necessary. This conduct includes verbal or physical advances of a sexual nature, and requests for sexual favors. These acts are mostly unwelcome. Depending on these, action can be taken against employers.

Sexual harassment may also be in the form of verbal harassment. This depends on whether the remarks were hostile. Whether there was participation from both the parties or on which context or frequency was it used or the relation between both the parties. The complaint in the case of sexual harassment can even be lodged by a person other than the victim. But for taking action, the affected person himself and another person in his position should consider the conduct abusive, offensive, and hostile.

Before filing a sexual harassment complaint, the employee should first file a complaint about the situation with an administrative agency. A federal complaint that pertains to sexual harassment can be filed by an employee with the EEOC. There are local and state agencies in which complaints can be lodged under state law. If these agencies do not help redress the harm done within a specific time or refuses to provide redressal, the person may file a private lawsuit.

If the person has a sense of being sexually harassed, it should be made clear to the harasser that these gestures are unwelcome. This clears misconceptions by the harasser. He should also bring it to the notice of the employer through a grievance redressal system or employee complaint mechanism that is available. When these methods do not work, the sexual harassment cases can be brought to the notice of any state agency or the EEOC.