The news is filled with an increasing number of stories about sexual harassment taking place across a wide range of industries with more coming seemingly every day. Iowans who have been subjected to this treatment at work or believe they might have been are undoubtedly paying strict attention to how these allegations are treated. However, it is an ongoing question as to what constitutes sexual harassment and when various behaviors do not meet the criteria of being considered sexual harassment. Knowing whether behavior has reached the threshold of sexual harassment is the first step to seeking compensation in a legal filing.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, requests to provide sexual favors, and verbal or physical acts that are sexual. For it to be considered a violation of the law, there must be certain factors in place: there must be an implied or detailed condition on the part of the person making the request that it is required for employment; submitting to it or rejecting it can affect the employment and future opportunities; or the conduct creates a work environment that is offensive, hostile or intimidating.
Social interaction and joking of a sexual nature is not prohibited, nor is asking for a date if it is done without the underlying implication that a rejection will harm the person’s employment. There are two different kinds of harassment. One will result in concrete employment action and the other leads to a hostile work environment but does not result in an employment action. The employer will be liable if the supervisor harasses an employee and there is a tangible employment action.
Sexual harassment can involve physical, verbal, visual and hazing acts. If a person touches another in a sexual way, it is physical. Verbal involves jokes, offensive sexual comments, crude language and slurs. Visual can be cartoons, images, sexual objects and videos. Hazing can be mocking, practical jokes, ostracism and rumors being told about the alleged victim.
People who think they are being victimized in any way by sexual harassment should understand that they have rights. Discussing a case with a legal professional who is experienced in helping a victim of harassment seek compensation through a sexual harassment lawsuit is the first step toward filing a claim and being compensated.