Despite Legislation Banning Such Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Still Affects American Workplaces

Law Firm Newswire



Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) December 22, 2014 – It has been illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace for more than 50 years. But despite Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment still takes place.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sexual harassment complaints make up at least eight percent of all complaints filed, with four out of 10 having enough merit to pursue. Cases pursued by the EEOC are filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation against a worker who files a complaint. Other remedies were added in 1991.

“You may recall the story of San Diego mayor Bob Filner. He was accused of sexually harassing 18 women in 2013. This is not the first story of this nature, and it will likely not be the last incident of this kind of harassment in the workplace,” said Timothy J. Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer. The law pertaining to sexual harassment is applicable to businesses with 15 or more workers. Most state laws mirror existing federal statutes.

Sexual harassment comes in many guises. Workers may create a hostile workplace, fraught with inappropriate and unwelcome sexual comments, advances or behaviors, for their peers. A supervisor could demand sexual favors to permit a worker to keep his or her job. Employees at every level can create a hostile environment by inappropriately touching someone, making sexual remarks about a person’s appearance or genitalia, asking someone for sex, sending sexually graphic photographs online, printing such photos, or sending sexually explicit literature, such as a joke or story detailing a sexual encounter.

Most often, a male harasses a female in sexual harassment cases. But women can harass men just as severely, as can members of the same sex. The position and identity of the perpetrator of the harassment determines who is responsible for the behavior. If the harasser was a supervisor, and a case were proven, his or her employer would be responsible for that individual’s actions. If the source of harassment were a co-worker, the employer would only be liable if the plaintiff is able to prove the employer knew about the harassment and made no effort to put a halt to it.

“What should you do if you feel you are being sexually harassed? First, ask the perpetrator to stop. If the behavior does not change, file a written complaint with management. An employer should immediately investigate your allegations. An employer may not retaliate against you in any way, such as demoting you, firing you or reducing your wages, for filing a complaint. If you need to know what your legal rights are, contact a seasoned employment attorney,” Coffey suggested.

Learn more at THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C. 351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602 Chicago, IL 60654 Call: 312.627.9700
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