Sexual harassment in the workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, plus state and local laws that mirror Title VII. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome behavior targeted at an employee because of his or her sex, including:
* Unwanted advances or unwelcome touching, or inappropriate comments,
* Requests for sexual favors, or
* Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
There two forms of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo, and (2) hostile work environment. Sexual harassment may or may not involve any physical contact. Words alone are typically sufficient to constitute either type of sexual harassment. Images alone may be sufficient to constitute hostile environment sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs where submission to or rejection of harassing conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions or is made a condition of employment. As an example, an employee who is terminated for refusing to submit to a supervisor’s advances has suffered quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s job performance or creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment. Under hostile work environment harassment, the harassment need not result in an adverse employment action to be actionable. This form of sexual harassment may include:
* Repeated requests for sexual favors
* Demeaning sexual inquiries and vulgarities
* Offensive or degrading language
* Sexually offensive, explicit or sexist signs, cartoons, calendars, literature or photographs displayed in plain view
Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired, transferred, or demoted).
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
In our work representing victims of sexual harassment, we at Reid Kelly, P.C. fight hard to protect our clients’ rights and hold employers accountable. If you think you may be the victim of sexual harassment, call us now at (718) 412-8452, or contact us online here.