Sexual harassment shouldn’t happen anywhere, particularly not in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to investigate and address any sexual harassment that occurs at work. They are required to take appropriate steps to ensure that the behavior is not tolerated. However, sometimes they don’t always do what they are responsible for doing. At times, it can become necessary to file a claim against your employer. Based on some of the sexual harassment statistics, the issue goes unaddressed or is inadequately addressed far too often.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
There is a problem with sexual harassment in the workplace going unreported. Part of the reason for this may be the relative lack of awareness regarding what constitutes sexual harassment at work. Generally, workplace sexual harassment falls into two categories:
- Hostile Work Environment – This occurs when a worker experiences sexual harassment that is inescapable at work. For a behavior to be hostile work environment sexual harassment, it must be unwelcome, based on sex/gender, and severe or persistent. This means that behavior that isn’t severe cannot be isolated, sporadic, or trivial and still be considered hostile work environment sexual harassment.
- Quid Pro Quo – This occurs when a worker is offered a favor in exchange for a sexual act, which need not necessarily be intercourse. The offer does not necessarily need to be explicit. However, the benefit must be tied to the sexual action. Some of the things that may be promised include:
- New titles
- Better compensation
- Scheduling favors
- Not being fired
- Not having policy violations reported
How Frequently Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Occurs
It’s hard to get exact numbers on just how regularly sexual harassment occurs in the workplace. This is due to several factors, including workers being unaware of what constitutes sexual harassment and many incidents being unreported compared to other workplace issues. Even so, the numbers that have been uncovered are staggering.
- In California, as many as 86% of women experience some form of sexual harassment at work
- 53% of men reported experiencing sexual harassment
- Research found that 80% of women and 75% of men identifying as LGBTQ+ said that they have experienced sexual harassment at work
What to Do About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
One of the most frustrating statistics regarding sexual harassment in the workplace regards just how regularly the problem goes unreported. Somewhere between 58% and 72% of instances of workplace sexual harassment go unreported by the victims or anyone else who may have knowledge of it. Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable, and no one should have to experience it. It’s important to report the issue to the appropriate parties every time sexual harassment is experienced. If the problem goes unaddressed or under-addressed, then you could benefit from speaking with a sexual harassment lawyer.
Q: What Is Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment?
A: A hostile work environment happens when the harassment that you are experiencing is unavoidable at work. You can’t really get away from it because it has become, more or less, inseparable from work. There are three components of hostile work environment sexual harassment, which are:
- Unwelcome Behavior – You must not desire the treatment that you are receiving from someone else and express to the other person your lack of desire to be treated that way. It is better to use verbal expressions. However, a blunt, non-verbal reaction can work as well.
- Behavior Based on Sex/Gender – The harassment you receive must be based on your gender, not another characteristic, like your sports fandom or alma mater. If someone went to a rival school of the school you graduated from and was making fun of you for that, it would not necessarily be illegal.
- Pervasive or Severe – If the behavior is significant in nature, then one instance of its occurrence is enough to be considered harassment. Something like sexual assault happening once in the workplace is sexual harassment in the workplace. However, if the behavior is not severe, that doesn’t mean it isn’t sexual assault. If it is pervasive and continues repeatedly after it’s been made clear that the behavior is not welcome, that is also harassment.
Q: What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
A: This kind of harassment is when you’re threatened or offered to exchange a sexual favor for some type of benefit, including but not necessarily intercourse. The “this for that” doesn’t have to be explicit, but it must be clear that a sexual act will result in a workplace benefit for you. Some of the kinds of things that may be offered in quid pro quo sexual harassment include:
- Not being fired
- A promotion
- Better compensation
- A new title or position
- A better work schedule
- Not reporting workplace violations
Q: How Much Sexual Harassment Happens in the Workplace?
A: Because somewhere between 58% and 72% of sexual harassment goes unreported, it’s hard to get an exact understanding of how much sexual harassment goes on in the workplace. Generally, somewhere between 54% and 81% of women report experiencing sexual harassment at work, and as many as 86% in California report experiencing it. Additionally, half of these women describe sexual harassment as having negatively impacted their careers.
Q: What Must Employers Do to Address and Prevent Sexual Harassment?
A: There is an expectation and responsibility for employers to address workplace sexual harassment when it is brought to their attention. The steps that they are required to take could include:
- Investigation of claims
- Mandatory training
- Reassigning the harasser
- Firing the harasser
Employers are also required to ensure that anyone reporting harassment doesn’t face retaliation or adverse employment actions as a result.
Get Help With Your Sexual Harassment Claim
If you’ve been dealing with sexual harassment at work, and your employer hasn’t done enough to address it or is the source of the harassment, then you may have a case to file a claim against them. At Diefer Law Group, we can take a look at your case and help you through the claim process. Contact us to review your situation.