Sexual Harassment FAQs
What is sexual harassment?
In the federal context, sexual harassment is considered to be a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “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.”
What are the different types of sexual harassment occurring at workplace?
Depending upon the circumstances prevailing at work place, sexual harassment at workplace can be categorized in to two classes. Quid Pro Quo harassment is the sexual harassment involving mutual favors mostly requested by some superior in lieu of some employment benefits to the employee. This occurs when a supervisor or one in an authority position requests sex, or a sexual relationship, in exchange for not firing or otherwise punishing the employee, or in exchange for favors, such as promotions or raises. The second category is hostile work environment. This involves sexual harassment that occurs through the presence of demeaning or sexual photographs, jokes or threats. In this type of harassment, the inappropriate behavior or conduct must be so pervasive as to, create an intimidating and offensive work environment.
What are the laws that offer protection against sexual harassment?
In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) issued regulations defining sexual harassment and stating it was a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act, which had been originally passed in 1964. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court first ruled that sexual harassment was a form of job discrimination and held it to be illegal. Today, most states have their own fair employment practices laws that prohibit sexual harassment and many of them stricter than the federal law.
What are the legal remedies available to an employee in the event of termination?
If an employee has been fired without a good reason or in violation of federal or state law it could be a wrongful discharge which can be challenged. If the employee can bring a successful claim for wrongful discharge, employers can be made to pay back wages, fines, and possible punitive damages or even the employee can be reinstated. However, if the employee is an “at-will” employee there is little chance for the employee to succeed since the employer has the right to fire him/her for any or no reason at any time so as long as all protections afforded by state and federal law have been followed. Where no wrong has been committed, “at-will” employees have no remedy for employment termination.