Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By September 9, 2019Business

The recent #MeToo movement has helpfully brought sexual harassment out of the shadows. Now, the public can frankly discuss the problems that plague many people, especially women, in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is already illegal under federal and state law, but few workers are actually aware of their rights. Below, our Las Vegas litigation attorneys provide an overview of sexual harassment law so that workers can feel confident to stand their ground and demand the respect they deserve.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. It can take one of two forms:

  • Quid pro quo. This is the “classic” type of sexual harassment. A boss asks a subordinate for sex and either promises a reward for a “yes” or threatens repercussions if the subordinate says “no.”
  • Hostile work environment. A workplace can become hostile and oppressive due to unwelcome sexual conduct.

Each qualifies as sexual harassment, and a worker can bring a discrimination charge against their employer and possibly even sue.

What Makes a Workplace Hostile?

A workplace can become hostile when unwelcome sexual conduct is severe or pervasive. Conduct can include:

  • Jokes
  • Slurs
  • Nicknames
  • Gestures
  • Unwanted touching
  • Sexualized pictures

A key concept is that the conduct is unwelcome. Some people carry on and have affairs at work. The affair is not sexual harassment if you consented to it and welcomed it.

How much unwelcome conduct makes the workplace hostile? This depends on the circumstances. Being groped even once can qualify. However, one stray sexual remark probably does not.

Sexual harassment can also exist when comments are not sexualized in nature. For example, a generic statement about either sex—“Women always think that way,” “Men aren’t good at listening”—can also be offensive. A large amount of these types of sexist remarks can make a workplace hostile.

Who Can Commit Sexual Harassment?

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is committed by a supervisor who propositions a subordinate. However, a hostile work environment can be created by all sorts of people:

  • Supervisors
  • Colleagues
  • Customers
  • Vendors

It is also important to realize that sexual harassment is not limited to women being harassed by men. Men can be harassed by men or women, and women can be harassed by women.

Also, the person complaining about sexual harassment does not need to be the target of offensive comments, jokes, slurs, etc. The workplace could become intolerable for anyone working there, who should complain to Human Resources.

How Do You Report Sexual Harassment?

You need to notify Human Resources or your boss (unless your boss is harassing you). HR might be completely unaware of what is happening, and the company needs a chance to investigate and discipline.

Carefully document the harassment. Write down dates and times of harassing conduct or sexual offers. Identify possible witnesses as well. If you receive offensive or sexualized messages, preserve them.

Speak with Las Vegas Litigation Attorneys

No one should be forced to tolerate sexual harassment. If you need help understanding your legal rights, contact us. H1 Law Group has helped many men and women with workplace issues, and we are here for you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.