You do NOT have to tolerate Sexual Harassment!

EEOC’s definition of sexual harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) interprets Title VII’s laws against sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature that:

  • explicitly or implicitly is a condition of employment, or
  • are used to make a hiring or other employment decision, or
  • unreasonably interfere with a person’s performance or create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can be verbal conduct, physical conduct, or both and it generally must be severe and pervasive. There are basically two types of gender harassment recognized by the courts — quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Two types of sexual harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a this-for-that situation in which an employee is forced to choose between catering to unwanted sexual demands and either losing a job benefit or being punished in some job-related way.

Hostile work environment gender harassment is more difficult to recognize because the same conduct that could be sexual harassment in some circumstances wouldn’t be in others. A hostile work environment exists if an employee experiences an intimidating, offensive work setting. The conduct must be based on gender and severe or pervasive. A couple of minor, crass comments generally won’t be considered sexual harassment, although you may certainly complain about them.

Hostile work environment harassment isn’t just limited to sexual acts. An employee who constantly picks on his female coworkers but not his male coworkers could be engaging in illegal sexual harassment.

You must follow your Company’s policies regarding reporting of sexual harassment

If you believe that you are being subjected to sexual harassment, then consult your policy manual and see what the Company says about to whom you should complain, and follow those directions.  If you complain about sexual harassment, then the law provides you some protections against retaliation (if your Company has more than 15 employees).  So it is wise to be sure to make your complaints in writing and use the term “sexual harassment” so that there is no question that you are entitled to the law’s protection.