Sexual Harassment: Explained

We’ve represented untold numbers of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite all the training employees get, some still just don’t get it. In fact, federal government data shows there are more sexual harassment complaints last year than in 2010. In other words, in the last decade, the problem has actually grown.

We think the problem of workplace sexual harassment is even worse than reported. Many victims do not come forward, just as victims of sexual abuse outside the workplace are often reluctant to speak up. Those who do are sometimes discouraged from filing complaints, even by their own human resource departments, and may be falsely told that what they have experienced isn’t sexual harassment.

But know this. No person or employer is too powerful to be held accountable. We’ve sued and defeated wealthy and powerful politicians, doctors, lawyers, executives at the world’s largest companies, and small-business owners, too.

If someone tells you a person or company is too powerful and that no one can take them on, they’re flat wrong. We’ve done it, over and over. There’s no one too big, too wealthy or too powerful for us to go after.

Here’s What Constitutes Sexual Harassment

Make no mistake about it. Sexual harassment is easy to spot. Harassers know what they are doing. So do victims. Under the law, sexual harassment is any of the following:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances. This includes explicit and vulgar sexual invitations as well as veiled offers e.g., “Why don’t we go back to my room and play?”, or “Why don’t you let me take care of you later?”
  • Requests for sexual favors. Often these comments are made as demands in exchange for promotions, pay increases, or other work-related perks. An example: “The New York seminar? I’ll think about sending you, but your odds will improve if you earn with some after-hours activities, if you know what I mean.” Sometimes these demands (known as quid pro quos) come after the victim has been given work-related perks – a trip, a promotion, a great assignment or an expensive gift or dinner. In this category as well are suggestions by the harasser that the victim should have sex with clients or customers for the benefit of the company.
  • Verbal conduct of a sexual nature. This category doesn’t require a sexual offer or demand. It covers general sexual comments, such as vulgar insults to the victim about her or his body, or taunts to the victim to perform sex acts on the harasser. It can (and often does) include sex-related talk intended to test the victim’s openness to advances. Examples: “My wife and I don’t have sex anymore,” “How’s your sex life?” It can include compliments about the victim’s physical appearance made as a compliment but intended to gauge the reaction to the harasser’s explicit mention of the victim’s eyes, breasts, buttocks or other body parts.
  • Physical conduct of a sexual nature. Often a harasser will physically touch his or her victim: unwanted shoulder rubs; strokes of the victim’s hair, face, arms or legs; grabbing, touching or slapping the victims genitals; or rubbing up against the victim while passing by.

The Harasser Can be a Boss, A Coworker or Even a Visitor

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of a different sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.  Friends of other employees, customers, and contractors or repair people can all create liability for your company if they sexually harass you.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed. You can file a case even if the target is someone else, but the conduct directly affects your work environment.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. In other words, you don’t have to lose your job or benefits to make a claim. This is also true even if you were promoted or given a raise while the harasser was targeting you.

Here’s What to Do If You Suffer or Have Suffered Sexual Harassment

It is helpful, if you experience sexual harassment, to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. You should also use any complaint mechanism or grievance system your employer offers.

And here’s another tip. Please feel free to call us first if you are experiencing harassment and aren’t sure what to do. We can tell you if the conduct in question meets the legal standards, and we can tell you exactly how to deal with and report it. Reporting it in the wrong way may give you no legal protection whatsoever. And keep in mind that some human resource officials, even if they allow you to make a written complaint, may press you to describe the behavior in a way that strips you of legal protection. HR officials are there to protect your employer. That’s who pays them. HR officials are often experts in understanding which description of an event will get you legal protection, and which will amount to nothing.

We do not charge for consultations, and we will talk to you as often as needed if we can help fix the problem. We don’t limit our free consultations to a single discussion. In fact, we often work behind the scenes on an extended basis with employees who need our help, and we never charge them anything. If we can solve your problem so that you don’t need to hire us, we’ll gladly do that.

If you need to call us, please do so toll-free at 800-663-7999. You can also privately message us on our business Facebook page at All conversations are completely confidential.


Categories: Sexual Harassment, Sexual Identity Discrimination

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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