Researchers have discovered that people who’ve experienced sexually harassing behaviors at work rarely label their experiences as sexual harassment.
Even after the visibility of the #MeToo movement, many people still don’t realize just how much inappropriate behavior counts as unlawful sexual harassment. Companies are required by law to uphold certain standards and respond quickly to sexual harassment complaints. If they fail, they can be held liable for the harm suffered by the harassment victims.
Everyone deserves a safe and respectful working environment. When sexual harassment shows up at work, it can cause tremendous pain and suffering to those who experience it.
What Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Workplace sexual harassment involves unwanted conduct based on someone’s sex, such as sexual advances, jokes, or comments. This can take different forms:
- Quid pro quo – such as requesting sexual favors in exchange for something, or
- A hostile or toxic work environment – where the sexual harassment is ignored, allowed to go on unaddressed, or treated as a part of the workplace culture.
Depending on the severity of the act, even a single incident could be unlawful sexual harassment.
The law protects employees against sexual harassment, but 72% of victims do not report the harassment they experience in the workplace. Victims may not realize they have rights. They may be afraid to report harassment, or they may be conditioned to brush it off because of a company’s culture. After all, most people rely on their jobs to support themselves and their families.
But you deserve a workplace free from unlawful sexual harassment.
Even “small” incidents can add up over time, with devastating consequences to a victim’s mental health and career. Victims of sexual harassment have been found to suffer depression and PTSD, as well as long-term physical health problems. They’re more likely to become unemployed, forced to change jobs, or abandon otherwise well-paying careers because of the harassment they experience.
If you’re afraid to report sexual harassment or if your company has failed to address its issues even after complaints, you should talk to an employment lawyer about your legal options.
Are You Aware of These 5 Sexual Harassment Facts?
To help you better understand what sexual harassment is and what your rights are as a potential victim, we have compiled five facts everyone should know:
1. Both Women and Men Can Be Victims of Sexual Harassment
52% of women and 43% of men have experienced sexual harassment behaviors at work. Although women tend to experience sexual harassment at higher rates, men are not immune.
If you are a male who has been sexually harassed in the workplace, know that you have rights, regardless of your gender. No one should have to deal with the toxic and harmful effects of sexual harassment at work.
2. Harassment Can Happen Between People of the Same Sex
Yes, sexual harassment includes conduct between people of the same sex.
This can include sexual advances but also jokes or comments based on gender stereotyping. For example, a male employee could harass another with insults to their masculinity.
Gender-based comments and insults are usually not appropriate in the workplace – for example, offensive comments about women in general. A single offhand remark or isolated incident may not qualify as sexual harassment. However, if the behavior becomes repeated or pervasive, that can lead to an unlawful hostile work environment.
3. Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Have to Involve a Physical Act
Harassment covers all types of conduct – not just physical. Just because you were never touched or assaulted doesn’t mean you can’t experience harassment.
- Verbal harassment could take the form of suggestive comments or requests for sexual favors, either in person or through other channels like text or online chat groups. This includes sexually suggestive comments made about an employee to someone else.
- Excessive staring or leering could also be harassment even without any verbal or physical escalation of the behavior.
- Other actions that can be considered sexual harassment include sharing sexual photographs, watching explicit content at work, unwelcome nudity or self-exposure, or violating physical privacy.
4. The Harassment Doesn’t Have to Come from a Supervisor
Unfortunately, supervisors can abuse the power they have over their subordinate employees, using their position to get away with their unlawful behavior. But supervisors aren’t the only ones who can be held accountable for sexual harassment under the law.
You’re protected against sexual harassment from anyone while on the job. That includes not just your own supervisor but your coworkers, supervisors or employees from other departments, and even non-employees like customers or third-party business vendors.
You can even experience sexual harassment from your own subordinate employees. You could have an actionable case if your employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate actions to stop the behavior.
5. Retaliation Against Harassment Victims is Illegal
75% of employees who reported workplace harassment faced some kind of retaliation.
Workplace retaliation happens when your employer takes negative action against you for asserting your legally protected rights. That could look like:
- Demoting or firing you for reporting sexual harassment
- Changing your work schedule to fewer or more inconvenient hours
- Passing you up for promotions and other career opportunities
- Giving you an undeserved negative performance review
- Moving or downsizing your office or desk
- Removing you from important or higher-priority work projects
Because companies have so much power over individual employees, it’s no wonder that the majority of workers who experience sexual harassment don’t report their experiences. But if you experience sexually harassing behaviors at work, the law is on your side.
At Wilshire Law Firm, our nationally recognized employment lawyers have helped countless workers hold their employers responsible for toxic work environments. Without proper policies and procedures to protect employees, sexual harassment can go unchecked at a company. The responsibility for a safe workplace goes all the way to the top.
Our award-winning attorneys have the skill and discretion to get the maximum possible compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. We take our cases on a contingency-fee basis so you don’t pay us unless you win your case.