Sexual harassment in the workplace is portrayed in movies and television shows as being overt and obvious. It leads us to believe we understand when harassment occurs, but in real life, it isn’t always so clear-cut.
If you have questions about whether what you are experiencing constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, contact one of our experienced employment law attorneys for help.
How to Identify Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
In short, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment in the workplace as unwelcome sexual advances or inappropriate touching. Harassment includes physical or verbal threats of sexual nature. It may occur in the form of a request for sexual favors by another party. It can even be offensive comments made about gender.
Missouri Sexual Harassment Law
Missouri law, like federal law, prohibits workplace sexual harassment. The Missouri Human Rights Act (the “Act”) sets forth the state’s laws prohibiting a variety of types of harassment, including sexual harassment. The Act applies to employers with six or more employees. Broadly speaking, the Act prohibits harassment or discrimination based upon sex in hiring, firing and other employment matters.
How Common is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Both the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the EEOC receives thousands of claims of harassment every year, but many more cases are never filed. Many employees do not file legitimate harassment claims because they are concerned their employer will retaliate against them or other negative consequences will result. It can be particularly difficult for an employee to file a sexual harassment complaint if the employee’s supervisor is the one acting inappropriately. Smaller businesses do not have a human resources department or other managers the employee can complain to about the harassment.
What are the Types of Sexual Harassment?
Workplace sexual harassment is classified in two primary categories, which are quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo harassment is “something for something.” For example, one worker makes a demand that an employee act in exchange for a something in return. The quid pro quo scenario is not consensual and the person making the demand is attempting to justify their actions because the employee with get something in return.
One of the most common quid pro quo examples occurs when a supervisor demands a subordinate perform sexual favors in exchange for a promotion. In other circumstances, the superior threatens repercussions if the subordinate does not perform sexual acts or if the employee discusses the matter with anyone else.
Hostile Work Environment
Sexual harassment in the workplace that is categorized as hostile work environment does not involve the initiating party saying anything will happen in exchange for the sexual favor. The aggressor makes unwelcome advances or takes action that makes the employee feel uncomfortable.
Hostile work environment can include a variety of circumstances. A few examples include:
- Inappropriate gestures or jokes aimed at the employee;
- Viewing or displaying sexual pictures in front of the employee; or,
- Making suggestive comments about the employee’s physical appearance.
What Should I do if I am the Victim of Sexual Harassment?
If you have a Human Resources department or other way to report the unwanted behavior, you should follow company policy and properly report it. If you are in a situation where you do not feel comfortable going to a supervisor to report the sexual harassment, then you should attempt to document the incidents. It is also vital that you inform the aggressor that you do not welcome the advances or other behavior that is making you uncomfortable.
Contact Experienced Employment Attorneys for Help
The Crone Law Firm is passionate about helping victims of sexual harassment stop the unwanted behavior and recover damages for the injuries sustained. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, contact us for the advice and guidance you need. Call us at 901-737-7740 to see how we can help.
Let’s go get some justice! If you’ve been treated unfairly or harassed at work and are wondering if you should take action, contact us and we’ll help you evaluate the merits of your case. Once you know, you can decide what you want to do.