Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment which is a form of sexual discrimination. It is prohibited by law to harass an applicant or an employee based on their gender. Harassment can include a wide variety of actions such as unwelcome sexual advances, asking for a sexual favor, and many other verbal, non-verbal or physical actions that are of a sexual nature. However, even offensive remarks that are made about a person’s gender or sexuality can be considered sexual harassment. It is prohibited to make offensive remarks about women in general or men in general. Victims may be either male or female and victims do not have to be of the opposite sex. As a general rule, the law does not deal with incidents where there is simple teasing, silly comments or isolated incidents that do not escalate. However, when harassment becomes severe and creates a hostile work environment or an offensive work environment then the law is there to protect workers. A harasser can be a co-worker, an employer, supervisor, or even a person who is not employed by the company like a customer.
What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment at Work
The first thing that should be done is that the employer should be notified immediately. Be sure to follow any procedures that the company may have in place for reporting incidents or sexual harassment. In cases where an employer does not take proper action it is advisable to seek legal counsel or contact the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An employment lawyer in NJ can help with filling out the proper forms and help you work through the proper reporting procedures. It is important to act quickly as there is a limit of 180 days for filing a complaint.
What will the EEOC do?
The EEOC will usually investigate once a report has been filed. They will look at the entire situation including the surrounding circumstances, the nature of the sexual conduct or advances, and the context which were occurring at the time of the incident. Officials will sort out the facts on each individual case to determine what happened and if sexual harassment did occur in the workplace. Many times they will offer an out of court settlement to the company in instances where sexual harassment is verified. And in many cases they will require the employer to provide new documentation of how allegations of sexual harassment will be handled in the future. They will also monitor the company to ensure that they are taking preventive measures and informing all employees of how to avoid or handle these types of situations.
Prevention is the Best Option
Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is the best case scenario. Employers are generally encouraged to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the first place. It should be very well communicated to employees that instances of sexual harassment and related behaviors will not be tolerated in the workplace. Employers can provide extensive training to employees to help prevent it from ever occurring. But employers should also have a clear and effective method for complaining or filing a grievance when sexual harassment is reported. It is also very important for the business to take swift and appropriate action when there is an employee complaint that involves sexual harassment.
An employment attorney can help in cases where retaliation occurs. And employer is not allowed to retaliate against any individual for opposing discrimination or sexual harassment. The employer cannot retaliate in any way against an individual who is participating in an investigation, proceedings, or any litigation under TitleVII.