Sexual harassment at work is a hot-button issue these days. Every few months there is a new news story about a high profile case against a politician or a large corporation. Some say people are too accepting of it, while others say people are seeing sexual harassment where there isn’t any. It is hard to be sure if the workplace difficulties you have personally experienced are serious legal infractions or not.
What is sexual harassment?
Legally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment that can take place at a workplace. Both Federal law and Louisiana state law recognize the concepts of “Quid Pro Quo” and “Hostile Environment”.
Quid Pro Quo is when a supervisor or other employee with authority over the claimant makes sexual favors a condition of continued employment. For example, this would be a situation where your boss makes it clear that a decision about your employment (e.g. fired, hired, promoted, getting a raise) is dependent on you performing sexual favors for them.
Hostile Environment is when there is verbal or physical conduct at a workplace that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The harassment must be unwelcome, based on sex, and the employer must have known of the harassment and not taken action to resolve it.
Who gets sexually harassed at work?
The scenario of a young female employee being sexually harassed by a creepy coworker or an older manager is a staple in pop culture. In real life, sexual harassment can happen to anyone. Male employees can be harassed by female employees, older workers can be harassed by younger workers, and employees of the same sex can harass each other. In workplaces where employees deal with customers, sometimes customers can sexually harass workers. As of 2011, 16.3% of sexual harassment charges were filed by men. Just because what has happened to you doesn’t match popular conceptions, doesn’t mean it is not harassment.
Sexual harassment at work is believed to be very prevalent and often under reported. In 2016, 29.5% of workplace discrimination charges in Louisiana were based on sex discrimination. This sexual discrimination statistic includes issues like general harassment, sexual harassment, and being discharges from your job due to harassment.
What should I do if I’m sexually harassed?
Most industries take sexual harassment seriously these days. A clear and effective sexual harassment policy should be in place and all workers should be aware of it. This is the ideal case, and doesn’t always apply.
If you find yourself being harassed at work these are a few things to keep in mind.
- Make sure you say “no” to your harasser and let them know their behavior is not acceptable. Turn down offers of dates or meetings outside of the work place. Avoid sending mixed signals by not flirting back or going along with the “joke”. Don’t expect that ignoring the bad behavior will cause it to stop.
- Keep records of the harassment. You should immediately begin documenting all incidents of harassment. Write down the time, place, date, and what happened, and if there were any witnesses. Don’t keep a copy of this log at work in case you are suddenly unable to return to your workplace.
- Inform friends and family that you trust of what’s happening to you. If you feel that you can reach out to other coworkers, you may find that they have experienced the same treatment or witnessed similar behavior in the past. They will also count as witnesses that can back up your claims in a case.
What should I do if my work ignores my claims?
According to reports by the EEOC, the vast majority of people who are harassed at work do not report it. People fear that they will be ignored, negatively impact their reputation and livelihood, or are afraid of reprisals from their workplace. These beliefs are not unfounded, as many reports indicate that a large percentage of businesses will attempt to minimize the behavior, punish workers that speak up about harassment, or bully the employee into leaving.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, you probably have questions, concerns and fears about what lies ahead. Contact the Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess at our Lake Charles office today. One of our experienced attorneys can discuss the best options for you to consider in a free and confidential consultation. You may be eligible for compensation for emotional distress, lost wages, and other damages. Your employer will have to contend with a law firm protecting you and will not be able to deny the bad publicity that comes from sexual harassment lawsuits.
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, let our experienced team help you. Contact the Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess today.
You can read more information about sexual harassment at the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission’s fact sheet.