Perhaps you have been working in an environment made increasingly uncomfortable by the behavior of a coworker.
You describe this behavior as sexual harassment and are willing to file a claim over the issue. But what exactly is the law and how will the court react?
A little background
As part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The Act applies to every U.S. employer with a minimum of 15 employees. Sexual harassment may affect one individual or a group of people. The offensive behavior could involve touching, but can also take the form of crude language, emails, text messages and more. Offensive conduct that continues can cause a toxic work environment
In addressing the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that anyone can be a victim when this behavior “…unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. The EEOC also finds that:
- Sexual harassment may occur even when there is no economic injury to the victim
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a co-worker or even a non-employee
- Both victim and harasser can identify as any gender
The view of the court
Opinions vary among courts since proving sexual harassment can be difficult. However, there are several factors the court will consider, among which are:
- The severity of the offensive behavior
- The frequency of the incidents
- The size and nature of the employer’s business
- The conduct of the victim
Legal guidance is essential when bringing a claim of sexual harassment. Employers may argue that they took steps to prevent such behavior in the workplace. However, the court will make a determination putting special emphasis on the context of the harassment.