Sexual harassment, part 2: what conduct does the law prohibit?
Let’s pick up the thread of the two-part post on sexual harassment that we began a couple of weeks ago.
Federal law has strong legal protections against such harassment. As we noted in our May 9 post, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits a wide range of behaviors of a sexual nature – not just blatantly obvious and unwelcome sexual advances or objectionable innuendo.
In this part of the post, let’s look at some of the elements that it is necessary to prove to proceed with a sexual harassment claim under Title VII.
First of all, there is the threshold question of whether Title VII applies to your employer. In general, Title VII applies to employers that have at least 15 employees. And it applies both in the private sector and in government settings.
What types of impermissible conduct does the law address?
As we mentioned, the law’s protections go beyond over-the-top requests or demands for sexual favors. Sexual harassment under federal law can also consist of other types of conduct of a sexual nature that negatively impact someone’s employment.
This negative impact could consist in excessive interference with work performance. It could also take the form of a work environment that is hostile or offensive due to sexual harassment.
In practice, a common scenario for sexual harassment is when a supervisor demands sexual favors from a subordinate. But protections against harassment do not only apply when there is a hierarchical relationship; they also apply to situations in which the sexual harassment is done by others, such as co-workers or even non-employees.
If you feel have been sexually harassed at work, it makes sense to use any internal complaint systems that may be available through your employer. But because of the protections against sexual harassment under federal law, you don’t have to stop there.
Filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is one option. But it also makes sense to discuss your case with an employment lawyer who is knowledgeable about harassment cases.
To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on sexual harassment.