Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under federal and Ohio law.

Sexual harassment can take many forms.  It may be non-physical, such as dirty jokes, requests for dates, suggestive looks or subtle or not so subtle pressure for sexual activity.  It may also get physical and involve touching, groping, or even attempted rape or rape.  And, there is a lot of it going on.  According to the website of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), that agency received 11,364 charges of sexual harassment in fiscal year 2011.

Men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment, and the victim can be the same sex as the harasser.  It may be inflicted by employers, supervisors, co- workers, clients or customers.

There are two types of sexual harassment.  They are “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment.”  But, as the EEOC says, the line between the two is not always clear and the two forms of harassment often occur together.

Quid pro quo means “something for something.”  For example, if your boss says, “Spend the night with me and I’ll promote you” or “Spend the night with me or I’ll fire you” that is quid pro quo sexual harassment.  Quid pro quo sexual harassment may be far more subtle than this example, but it will be no less illegal.

“Something for something” does not have to be promised or threatened for sexual harassment to exist.  Illegal sexual harassment can also arise from what the EEOC calls “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”  This is “hostile environment” sexual harassment.  This conduct can include sexual advances, intentional touching of intimate body areas, vulgar or obscene language, displays of sexually oriented pictures or calendars or even sexual graffiti.  Whether the conduct rises to the level of illegal sexual harassment may depend upon the nature, frequency or context of the conduct.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, do not tolerate it.  Frequently, it gets worse. React immediately and let the harasser know that his conduct or comments are not acceptable.  Tell the harasser that you want him to stop.  Write down dates, times, places, witnesses and the circumstances of each occurrence.  (Keep this diary at home.)  Find out if your company has a procedure for complaining about sexual harassment, AND USE IT.  Complain in writing to responsible company personnel.

You should also seek legal advice.  If you choose not to consult with an attorney, you should at least consider contacting the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about filing a formal sexual harassment charge. The deadlines for the filing of such charges are short.  You should act promptly or your rights may be forfeited.

Green Haines Sgambati has attorneys who specialize in Labor and Employment
Law and who are experienced in handling sexual harassment cases.  Call us for a free
consultation.

This blog is designed to provide general information in regard to the subject matter covered.  This information should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice in specific situations.  If legal advice is required, the services of an attorney should be sought.

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