What Is Sexual Harassment?

Posted by: Brookside Admin

It seems that lately, there have been many stories in the papers, social media, and on television about sexual harassment. These are usually very blatant, over the top cases that are easy to spot and enflame emotions. Yet, there are thousands of cases of sexual harassment that go unnoticed because they are not as blatant or they do not get the national coverage that others do. Sometimes, cases may not even seem like they qualify as sexual harassment, so we overlook them. The sad fact is that sexual harassment has become a very serious problem in the United States. Today, there is a push to eliminate sexual harassment in all forms but it can be hard to understand where the line is between acceptable behavior and sexual harassment. How do you know what is sexual harassment and what is not? How do the courts view a sexual harassment case?

Sexual Harassment Definition

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is considered to be a form of sexual discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Types Of Sexual Harassment Claims

There are actually two different types of claims when it comes to sexual harassment, however the line that the court uses to distinguish between them can be blurry at times. Here are the two different types of claims:

Quid Pro Quo: This type of sexual harassment involves a supervisor or someone in an authority position who requests any type of a sexual relationship in return for something else, such as a promotion or not firing the employee.
Hostile Work Environment: This type of sexual harassment is through the presence of sexual or demeaning jokes, photos, or threats. The behavior has to be so pervasive that it creates an offensive and intimidating working environment.

How The Definition Is Used

It can be easy to define sexual harassment on paper, but applying it can be extremely difficult to apply the definition in real life. Different court opinions can have completely different outcomes, even under similar facts. For example, courts will disagree whether the posting of a single piece of sexually offensive material is enough to create a hostile work environment. One court may find that an unwelcome advance does not count as sexual harassment since it did not go to the level of pervasive behavior in the court’s opinion. Yet, another court may rule that a rebuffed request for a date could be counted as sexual harassment.

What The Court Considers

There are several different factors that the courts will use when considering a hostile work environment case. These factors include:

How often the alleged behavior happened
How severe was the behavior
How the victim acted
What was the context of the alleged harassment
How big is the employer’s business
What is the nature of the business
Would a reasonable person have considered the work environment to have been hostile

No matter the circumstances of your case, if you have questions or concerns about sexual harassment, call our offices today to speak with an experienced employment attorney. We offer a free consultation to ensure all of your questions are answered. Call today (918) 582 – 2500.

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