Sexual harassment has no place in the workplace, yet it still occurs in many places of business. It is against the law to harass an applicant or employee due to the person's sex or gender, among other protected categories. Sexual harassment includes verbal and physical harassment, requests for sexual favors and unwelcome sexual advances.
Harassment doesn't necessarily have to be sexual in nature, but includes offensive remarks about the person's gender or sex. For instance, it's sexually harassing to make offensive or negative comments about women in the workplace.
Who can be charged with sexual harassment?
Men or women can be the harassers in sexual harassment cases. Victims may also be male or female. Perhaps most important is that the victim and harasser may be of the same gender.
Is teasing the same as sexual harassment?
Not necessarily, but it can lead to claims. For example, offhand comments and teasing might be isolated incidents, but if they're severe enough to cause an adverse employment decision or to create a hostile work environment, that may constitute harassment. Usually, cases successfully litigated cases of sexual harassment have several instances of harassing behavior to support the claims.
Can only coworkers or supervisors/bosses harass workers?
When you think about harassment, you might assume it's only employees or their superiors who can harass people in the workplace. However, clients or customers can also be the harassers — and could be held responsible for their actions.
What can you do if you're being harassed on the job?
If you are being harassed at work, it is important that you speak up and ask for the harassment to stop. Normally, the courts like to see that you've made efforts to resolve the problem through the proper channels. For example, you may have a human resources (HR) department that would be able to address your allegations with your harasser and make them stop their behaviors.
If there are multiple instances of harassment or you feel unsafe or unwelcome on the job, talking to the HR department doesn't resolve the problem and you are unsettled about going to work, then you have an option to discuss the case with a legal professional. No one deserves to worry about going to work or what the implications of not responding positively to a superior's actions could be. An attorney can help stop harassment and protect the victim's rights.