If you have worked for a particular company for some time, you probably enjoy a certain routine in a familiar and comfortable workspace.
However, a new employee has contaminated that workspace with offensive behavior. Is this sexual harassment and, if so, what can you do about it?
Sexual harassment definition
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states in part that sexual harassment occurs when there is “verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature…that implicitly affects an individual’s employment…and creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.” The EEOC goes on to explain that the conduct of the harasser must be unwelcome and that he or she can be a company supervisor, a co-worker or a non-employee. The new co-worker in your department makes everyone uncomfortable by telling off-color jokes, bringing in sexual photos and sending sexually explicit emails and text messages.
You have options as the victim of sexual harassment. The first step is to inform your supervisor or human resources representative about the problem. If their help is not forthcoming, you can seek professional guidance. You should also inform the EEOC about the hostile work environment you face on a daily basis.
The view of the court
If your case goes to court, a judge will reach a decision based on several factors, including:
- The frequency of the offensive behavior
- The context of the alleged harassment
- The nature of the business
- Your conduct as the victim
Keep in mind that if you participated in any risqué banter or jokes, the case concerning sexual harassment and a hostile work environment will become more difficult to prove.