We may not have a definite answer as to why sexual harassment continues to occur at work, but we do know that both state and federal laws are on your side and protect employees from sexual harassment at work. Workplace sexual harassment can be defined as an unwelcome sexual advance or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with an employee's performance of his or her job duties, creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Often employees are afraid to voice their concerns about sexual harassment because of fear. Fear of losing their job, fear of creating issues for other employees and themselves. Often, we hear about employees who silence their own concerns and deal with harassment for year because they were afraid. But fear cannot stand in the way of your rights. You may try to avoid a supervisor who verbally makes unwelcomed comments hoping that it will eventually stop, but what if he or she does not stop? Sexual harassment at work is a serious problem and can happen to both women and men. Sexual harassment can range from a supervisor asking an employee to kiss her or him to keep a job, to years of harassment creating a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment is conduct that is unwelcomed, based on sex, and severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive or offensive work environment. Courts often consider several elements in determining whether a hostile work environment existed because of sexual harassment:
- Whether the conduct was verbal, physical, or both;
- Frequency of the conduct;
- Whether the conduct was hostile or offensive;
- Whether the alleged harasser was a co-worker or supervisor.
However, in any sexual harassment case, the victim will have to show that he/she subjectively believed the conduct was hostile, abusive, or offensive, and a reasonable person in his or her position would objectively believe the conduct was hostile, abusive or offensive.