Sexual harassment claims are the most common and potentially the most damaging type of employment claim. For the victim, sexual harassment damages self-confidence and can have long-lasting psychological and career damaging effects. Employers with pervasive sexual harassment issues also suffer as a result. Not only are the claims difficult to prove (and defend against), but they also carry a stigma in the court of public opinion. Established businesses and growing companies want to avoid being found liable or complacent with regard to workplace harassment.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, gender-based animosity, sexually charged behavior in the workplace and other offensive conduct based on someone’s gender. An offensive act can still be harassment even if the complainant is not the intended target of the harassing behavior.
There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and harassment creating a hostile work environment. Determining what constitutes either quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment claims varies from case to case.
Quid pro quo harassment is includes unwanted sexual advances, requesting sexual favors, or other verbal or physical sexual contact as a condition f employment. Quid pro quo harassment also includes situations where refusing the unwanted advance is the basis for an employment decision. Hostile work environment claims similarly involve unwanted sexual behavior, however in these claims, the purpose is to either interfere with the victim’s job performance or to create an intimidating or hostile environment.
Both claims can be brought against co-workers, supervisors, and vicariously to the company itself. Employers can find themselves embroiled in claims based on the alleged acts of a single employee. It is important for businesses to have established anti-harassment policies and established methods of addressing sexual harassment complaints. Harassment complaints should be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.
Our lawyers will work tirelessly to help your company develop proper procedures to avoid sexual harassment claims. If a claim has been raised, we can help you resolve the situation and modify your internal policies to prevent future incidents. If you believe you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, Harvey & Binnall is ready to protect your interests and advocate for you.