Sexual harassment in the workplace causes numerous significant issues for businesses and the individuals affected. Legal responsibility for companies and people who engage in sexual misconduct is one of the most severe punishments.
For the sake of this discourse, criminal responsibility can be defined as a legal obligation that may hold you liable for damages to a person as a result of a breach of that responsibility. For example, you have a legal responsibility not to deliberately hit another person in the face. However, if you do, you may be held accountable for all damages incurred as an outcome of the person getting hit in the face.
What Constitutes Sexual harassment at the workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace can take place in a variety of ways, such as:
- An unsolicited sexual approach.
- A physical favor request.
- Any sexually motivated sexual or nonverbal abuse; or
- Comments about a person’s sex are offensive.
Also, note that a remark doesn’t need to be sexual to constitute harassment, as long as it is an insulting comment about the person’s sex. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by:
- A superior
- A colleague
- A person who works for the same firm but in a separate department; or
- A vendor or customer.
In addition, it is crucial to acknowledge that sexual harassment can get perpetrated by anyone of any race. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender. Sexual assault can happen even between people of the same gender.
Sexual harassment is classified into two types: quid pro quo and poor work environment. In Latin terms, quid pro quo implies “this for that.” There is a demand for an interchange of sexual favors in certain instances.
In most circumstances, an individual gets repeated requests to perform a sexual act in exchange for a reward such as a bonus, promotion, or another advantage. It could also involve a commitment not to retaliate against an employee in exchange for the favor. In addition, sexual harassment can occur in both explicit and implicit forms and does not require a detailed explanation of the behavior or words.
The second variety of sexual harassment is offensive behavior or words used that produce a toxic work environment. The psychological effect of the victim’s conduct may be taken into account when deciding whether or not a hostile work environment occurred. However, various courts ruled that the perpetrator’s emotional impact must get evaluated as part of the overall circumstances.
As a result, a single statement combined with repeated physical interactions or threats may constitute a toxic work environment. Whether or not sexual harassment progresses to the degree of a hostile work environment is primarily determined by the facts of the case. In addition to federal courts safeguards, several states have legislation and rules prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace.
What does not Qualify as Sexual Harassment?
There are several instances of behavior that would not be considered sexual harassment. Examples are simple mocking remarks, offhand remarks, or non-serious, isolated events. A one-time compliment like, “you look great today,” for example, would not be deemed sexual assault. The setting and style in which the activity got carried out can also establish whether or not it is sexual assault.
For instance, approaching a co-worker for a meeting once would not be considered sexual harassment. However, continually asking that colleague out on a date after being turned down can be considered sexual harassment.
In addition, sexual harassment does not include any authorized behavior. For example, if two co-workers are in a loving relationship and participate in consensual sexual conduct, this is not considered sexual harassment.
That would be true even if they ended their relationship later on. It is crucial to note that sexual behavior in the office might violate company standards and possibly create an unpleasant environment for other employees.
What are Some Workplace Sexual Harassment Repercussions?
Sexual harassment in the workplace refers to circumstances in which co-workers make unsolicited sexual overtures or engage in inappropriate behavior. These behaviors impede an individual’s employment and produce an unpleasant, hostile, or insulting workplace atmosphere.
In addition, sexual harassment in the workplace is a punishable crime. It may have negative consequences for the victim, including adverse feelings consequences. Also, it is vital to highlight that, while the prowler may face harsh penalties, the employer or the victim may also face repercussions.
Potential Implications of Sexual Harassment for the Employer
There will almost certainly be ramifications if an employer is informed of sexual harassment in the workplace but ignores it or fails to take proper action. For example, the complainant can file a claim against their employer with the EEOC and a government entity. It could result in an injunction from the company requiring the employer to implement a policy change.
Moreover, it could even result in a civil action, which would cost the company both time and money. Furthermore, if the company is successful or well-known, the claim may gain media attention, especially if numerous employees have reported episodes of harassment. It may harm the employer’s image, both public and professional.
Potential Implications of Sexual Harassment for the Victims
Although it may appear unjust, victims of sexual violence may face repercussions if they disclose the incident. While these are not the identical types of repercussions the harasser or employer may experience, they are the most likely consequences the victims will face at work. Here are a few examples:
- Being put to rest
- A reduction in wages
- Being passed over for advancement; or
- Wrongful termination occurs when an employer replaces an employee or makes their workplace environments so miserable that they get forced to resign.
Employers who engage in these practices are breaking the law. If a person has been sexually assaulted, reported the incident, and is being penalized. As a result, they may be eligible to pursue their employer for vindictive dismissal, which is a sort of unfair dismissal.
What Should a Person Do if They are Sexually Harassed at Work?
It is crucial to understand that sexual harassment of any kind remains prohibited, and the harassed person may take action. In some circumstances, the harasser may be unaware that their acts are inappropriate.
At a minimum, the victim may desire to warn the harasser that their deeds are wrong and unwelcome. Of course, this is not a prerequisite. It is crucial to note that many state rules require a claimant, victim, or another party to pursue all available remedies before filing a lawsuit. A claim should be filed with a government department within 180 days or 300 days of the last occurrence of sexual harassment.
While this timeline varies from one state to another, it is vital to contact the experts to ensure that the complaint is filed on time. Also, if the EEOC does not pursue the case in the claimant’s interest, they will issue a Right to Sue letter. It gives the claimant the right to sue.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is an unacceptable practice, and every business must attempt to educate their employees regarding these assaulting practices and ways to overcome them.
Also, to create a better workplace and be free from any harassment, it is crucial to conduct routine sexual harassment prevention training to teach employees about favorable work behaviors and make them empathetic about their co-workers.