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What Is Sexual harassment?

Sexual Harassment Law is primarily a large part of Employment Discrimination Law, Civil Rights Law and in some cases, may also result in a Personal Injury lawsuit. Although not clearly defined and subject to interpretation by various courts, sexual harassment is generally described as unwanted and unsolicited physical advances and conduct of a sexual nature, such as touching, rubbing and groping, and sexual, demeaning, degrading and/or offensive comments and activity that may or may not carry the implication that the individual being subjected to these advances may suffer job-related or school-related retribution if she/he rejects them. 

Sexual harassment is one of the most subtle forms of discrimination. Often victims of sexual harassment in the workplace do not receive lower pay, or get passed over for promotions, or get fired because of their gender. Rather, sexual harassment discrimination occurs when someone can no longer do their job because their workplace has become permeated with sexual innuendo and other inappropriate behavior.

A good understanding of sexual harassment is necessary for protecting yourself against this kind of discrimination.

This section contains many helpful articles that explain different definitions of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as the various procedures in place for bringing a complaint based on sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is usually divided into two main categories: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment. Quid Pro Quo is the more overt form and refers to an individual in a position of power demanding sexual favors or acts in return for action or inaction, such as a promotion or promising not to terminate the employee or person of lesser power who is the subject of the harassment. 

Sexual harassment claims have been traditionally separated into two distinct kinds of harassment, though the line between the two have blurred in recent years. Quid Pro Quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or one in an authority position seeks a sexual relationship in exchange for favors such as promotions or raises, or threatens to punish or fire the employee if they fail to respond to advances. 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Sexual Harassment: Actions You Can Take

Sexual harassment commonly leaves its victims feeling powerless. However, there are some informal and formal steps victims can take to help ensure that they receive the protections that the law provides.

When an employee has exhausted the services of the EEOC or state FEP agency without resolution of her/his complaint, only then may she/he sue. Usually, the government agency will issue a legal document, most often called a “right-to-sue letter” that allows the employee to file a civil lawsuit. 

Because most FEP laws don’t provide for the recovery of damages for physical, mental and emotional injuries, it is generally more profitable to file suit under the U.S. Civil Rights Act. It is important to determine, however, whether the employer meets the guidelines stipulated by this law in order to be eligible to recover the maximum amount.