Sexual Harassment Often Surprises Workers and Creates Confusion

Law Firm Newswire



Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) April 8, 2015 – Despite years of education about sexual harassment in the workplace, very few employees who experience such a situation are prepared to deal with it.

Sexual harassment is alive and well. Being aware of workers’ rights and knowing what to do when they are violated is essential. It is always a wise move to read an employer’s handbook, but one should also be aware that the law may be different than company policy. It is interesting to note that harassment is not addressed specifically in Title VII. In fact, that particular section protects workers and those seeking work from discrimination based on religion, sex, national origin, race and color. It does not mention sexual harassment.

“While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) does not specifically protect workers from sexual harassment by spelling it out and naming it, the U.S. Supreme Court states that harassment severe or pervasive enough that it creates a hostile workplace is defined as being a violation of the Act,” says Sacramento, Calif. employment attorney Deborah Barron.

Sexual harassment creates hostile work situations. Even though the Act does not specifically outline sexual harassment, workers should be aware of what it may involve. It may include, but is not be limited to, off-color jokes, staring, persistent touching or repeatedly asking for a date.

If the source of the harassment is a boss, he or she is the last person to report to. Check that company manual regarding who else may be sought about questionable behavior – another staff member (with authority to act), an H.R. officer, or even a third-party outside source, such as a skilled employment attorney. Most handbooks outline whom to contact and provide various methods to do so. In fact, it is the law that companies offer such recourse to workers to protect them. If there is no human resources department or manager, the best avenue is seeking legal counsel.

Interestingly enough, a stated company policy may be more detailed or specific. This is precisely why everyone needs to read their employer’s handbook relating to harassment. A worker may be violating policies as stated, but yet not be in violation of a law.

One of the best tools in the arsenal of a worker who feels they are being sexually harassed is a clearly written log of any and all events. Include the time of day and other pertinent details, including what was said. Also note the request that the person cease and desist in their unwanted behavior. Keep track of whether or not that happened. But also include an H.R. representative in the loop to make sure it is not just an individual written record of events. In most cases, sexual harassment cases boil down to she said versus he said. Written records trump word-of-mouth.

During an internal company investigation, a worker should be asked what he or she would like to see as an outcome. For example, the employee may wish to remain employed, but have a different supervisor. Some requests may be fulfilled. Some may not. “And some investigations may result in the harasser retaining their job, being transferred to another department, closed to due inconclusive evidence or the alleged harasser continues to work with you,” Barron adds. “Again, speaking to a qualified employment attorney is the best and most powerful way to settle sexual harassment issues in the workplace.”

To learn more about filing a federal employment discrimination charge visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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