Sexual harassment is an abuse of an employer's power in such a manner that it creates a hostile work environment. There is no clear definition of when an act arises to the level of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. The standard applied by the courts is an objective standard (“reasonable man’s standard”):
When the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive work environment. Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).
Sexual harassment also includes same sex harassment. Additionally, the individual perpetrating the harassment, as well as the employer, can be held liable.
There are two types of sexual harassment claims:
Quid Pro Quo Harassment occurs when an employer conditions a term of employment on the performance of sexual favors. For example, requiring an employee to engage in sexual acts to retain his/her job or to obtain a promotion.
A Hostile Work Environment occurs when an employer maintains an environment where (a) offensive conduct of a sexual nature is either tolerated or encouraged; (b) that has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile or humiliating or offensive work environment; and (c) interferes with the employee's ability to perform his or her job. It is advisable to speak with a lawyer to understand whether or not a hostile environment exists in your place of employment before you take any action.
The statute of limitations concerning the bringing of discrimination claims or sexual harassment claims is short. Employees who believe they have a sexual harassment claim should seek the advice of a sexual harassment lawyer immediately.
If you have any questions, contact one of sexual harassment lawyers by calling one of our offices or by submitting the following inquiry form.