What Qualifies as Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Workplace harassment is unfortunately very common, and as victims are often unsure as to exactly what is classed as harassment, in many cases, it remains unreported and continues to be an issue until the victim switches jobs.  Not only can sexual harassment cause a lot of distress to the victim, but it can also lead to a toxic work environment, which is not what most business owners want.  With a recent Washington Post study claiming that over 33 million women in the US have been sexually harassed in the workplace, we thought it would be a good idea to explain more about this issue.


The Definition of Harassment

Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  It is defined as unwelcome physical or verbal behavior based on mental or physical disability, age, nationality, gender, sex (including pregnancy), religion, race or color.  This harassment becomes unlawful when it becomes a requisite to continued employment or it is severe or often enough that the victim begins to find the workplace abusive, hostile or intimidating.  In addition, if the harassment leads to the victim receiving a lower salary or being forced to change positions, this is also classed as unlawful.


Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace may include offensive pictures, insults, ridicule, intimidation, threats or physical assaults, name-calling, slurs, and offensive jokes.  It also isn’t limited to two people of opposite genders.  The person causing the harassment could be a co-worker, a boss or supervisor, someone in another department, or even someone not employed by the company.  In many states, the victim doesn’t have to have been personally harassed themselves.  If they have been affected by another person’s harassment, this can also lead to a lawsuit.

Sexual harassment can also occur during a job interview.  During an interview, the employer should not ask for any information regarding your sexual preferences, marital status or gender.  These are seen as discriminatory questions because they do not relate to how well you will be able to perform the job in question.


Where Do the Boundaries Lie?

In some cases, it can be hard to tell whether another person has crossed the line, or if a situation qualifies as workplace harassment.  In cases like these, it is best to seek the help of a qualified workplace harassment attorney. If you’d like to get a free consultation, the attorney David R. Heil PA at heil-law.com can do this for you if you’re in or around the Orlando area. They will be able to thoroughly investigate your claim and help you to arrive at a settlement in a timely fashion.

Victims are also advised to try and resolve the problem internally.  In some cases, this may mean reaching out to the offender and explaining the issue.  However, in others, this may mean speaking to either your supervisor or HR department.  Many workplaces will offer a confidential consultation in an attempt to curb the behavior as soon as it is made apparent.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not something you should ever have to experience.