The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also known as the EEOC defines sexual harassment as:
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
1. Submission to such conduct was made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment,
2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual was used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or
3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
1. and 2. are called “quid pro quo” (Latin for “this for that” or “something for something”). They are essentially “sexual bribery”, or promising of benefits, and “sexual coercion”.
Type 3. known as “hostile work environment,” is by far the most common form. This form is less clear cut and is more subjective.”
If one feels they have been sexually harassed, there are a number of legal options for a complainant. One can file with the EEOC or file a claim under a state Fair Employment Practices (FEP) statute.
The sexual harassment complaint then has to be determined whether the case or situation is severe, however, there is no minimum level for harassing conduct under the law.(Boland, 2002) Many cases are often settled before making it to the federal court.
Because sexual harassment was becoming such an issue in the workplace, forcing many women and men to leave because of it, in 1980 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission produced a set of guidelines for defining sexual harassment. Definitions such as Quid Pro Quo and Hostile environment sexual harassment had to be put together.
The following became defined. A hostile environment occurs when an employee is subjected to comments of a sexual nature, unwelcome physical contact, or offensive sexual materials as a regular part of the work environment. For the most part, a single isolated incident will not be enough to prove hostile environment harassment unless it involves extremely outrageous and egregious conduct.
Quid pro quo means “this for that”. In the workplace, this occurs when a job benefit is directly tied to an employee submitting to unwelcome sexual advances. For example, a supervisor promises an employee a raise if he or she will go out on a date with him or her, or tells an employee he or she will be fired if he or she doesn’t sleep with him or her. Quid pro quo harassment also occurs when an employee makes an evaluative decision, or provides or withholds professional opportunities based on another employee’s submission to verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Quid pro quo harassment is equally unlawful whether the victim resists and suffers the threatened harm or submits and thus avoids the threatened harm.
The line between “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” harassment is not always clear and often the two forms of harassment occur together
The law also protects an employee against retaliation. Retaliation is defined as when an employee suffers a negative action after he or she has made a report of sexual harassment, files a grievance, assists someone else with a complaint, or participates in discrimination prevention activities. Negative actions can include being fired, demotion, suspension, denial of promotion, poor evaluation, unfavorable job re-assignment—any adverse employment decision or treatment that would be likely to dissuade a “reasonable worker” from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.
Retaliation is as illegal as the sexual harassment itself, but also as difficult to prove. Also, retaliation is illegal even if the original charge of sexual harassment was not proven.
Today most companies prepare Sexual Harassment classes and handbooks to educate all employees of the dire and serious consequence of sexual harassment.
Steven Medvin is the Executive Director of SMP Advance Funding, LLC, which provides lawsuit funding to individuals who need a lawsuit loan for pending lawsuits. For more information please visit: http://www.smpadvance.com