Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of gender discrimination. Both federal and Texas state law prohibit gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Despite significantly professional advancements by women in the career spectrum-that is, women make up almost half of the workforce and out earn men in an estimated 40 percent of American households-sexual harassment has not faded. Over the past 15 years, the number of sexual harassment Charges of Discrimination filed with the EEOC has held steady between around 7,000 and 9,000, which does not account for all of the unreported cases of sexual harassment.
The difference is deciphering what sexual harassment looks like in 2017, when there are more ways to creep on someone at work than ever before-and perhaps, more confusion about what is off-limits in the employment context. As the workplace starts to feel more laid-back, subtler forms of sexual harassment are taking a psychological and economic toll on women. For example, with social media emerging, there is a much more casual relationship between coworkers and supervisors, and that absolutely creates more opportunity for people to cross the line between professional and unprofessional conduct.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT DEFINED
The definition of “sexual harassment” includes unwelcome sexual advances, comments intended to solicit sexual favors, and other verbal or physical sexually suggestive forms of harassment. A pattern of unwelcome sexually charged comments or actions may give you the right to bring a claim against your employer for sexual harassment. The law does not forbid simple teasing or comments that are innocent and not serious in nature. However, the more frequent and severe the behavior, the more likely the behavior matches the definition of sexual harassment. For example, these behaviors may enable some employees to feel victim of sexual harassment in the workplace from experiencing sexually explicit or sexist remarks at their jobs, despite their gender.
In addition to prohibiting workplace sexual harassment, the law forbids an employer from retaliating against an employee who complains about sexual harassment. This protection extends to any area of hiring, firing, demotion, and suspension of an employee based on retaliation.
TYPES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
There are two main types of sexual harassment. The first type of sexual harassment occurs when an employee is required to perform sexual favors as a condition of employment. This type of sexual harassment is referred to as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. For example, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employer threatens to fire an employee unless the employee performs sexual favors for the employer.
The second form of sexual harassment is referred to as “hostile work environment” sexual harassment.
This type of sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual advances become so severe that they interfere with the victim’s work performance or create a hostile or intimidating work environment. A hostile work environment often makes it difficult for an employee to perform his or her job functions. Employers may use this poor performance as a reason to terminate an employee. Thus, it is important that a victim of sexual harassment properly report the sexual harassment.
“Same-sex” sexual harassment is also against the law.
There are numerous new developments that affect same-sex sexual harassment claims. Bottom line, it is against the law to sexually harass another employee, no matter what sex. However, because same-sex sexual harassment in Texas is an emerging area of the law (like LGBT-gender related issues), it is important to contact The Law Office of Nicole Conger, PLLC to analyze if you are a victim of sexual harassment.
To prove sexual harassment claims, an individual must show that an incident or pattern of abuse occurred, the behavior was unwanted, they were harmed by the conduct, and that the employer had reason to know about the harassing events and failed to take corrective action.
The requirement for employer knowledge makes reporting the abuse a critical step. Employees are afforded few rights and may be prevented from recovering remedies should they fail to submit a claim of sexual harassment to their employer. Reporting it, as per company policy, allows employers the opportunity to investigation, and “remedy” the situation if they can in certain fact patterns. Employees may choose not to report sexual harassment out of fear for their job. To protect employees, under sexual harassment law, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who reports incidents that he or she in believes in good faith to be sexual harassment.
As awkward or intimidating as it may be, speaking out about sexual harassment is the only way to remove it. Sexual harassment should never be the price of a paycheck or something women (or men) need to put up with in order to get ahead at work. Pretending like sexual harassment does not happen is the worst thing we can do. At The Law Office of Nicole Conger, PLLC, she advocates for workers’ rights. Nicole believes in joining forces with her clients to take a stance against companies and demonstrate that change will come.