Sexual harassment is defined as the harassment of an individual or group through obscene remarks or unwanted sexual advances. There are two types of sexual harassment that can occur in the workplace: hostile work environment, which is the perpetuation of an environment where crude sexual remarks, jokes, and content are present, and quid pro quo sexual harassment, which occurs when an individual attempts to exchange favorable treatment for sexual contact. Any individual can be the victim or perpetrator of hostile work environment sexual harassment, regardless of age, gender, or position within a company. Typically, an individual must be in a supervisory position to commit quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Individuals who experience sexual harassment of either type are advised to file sexual harassment claims with help from experienced employment lawyers.
How to Spot Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can involve one or all of the following:
- Any type of unwanted touching or physical contact between workers, regardless of position in the company or gender;
- Sexually explicit conversations, messages, jokes, or images shared among workers that result in a hostile environment;
- Offers for raises, positive performance reviews, and promotions in exchange for sexual contact. This can also come in the form of threats of poor performance reviews and termination for refusing sexual contact;
- Repeated verbal commentary about another person’s body in a sexual manner; and
- Invasive questions and comments about an individual’s sex life, relationship, sexual preferences, and sexual history.
Sexual harassment does not have to take place in a heterosexual context. Sexual harassment can occur among members of the same gender.
Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Document everything you experience that can be construed as sexual harassment. You will need this documentation to support any reports you make to your supervisor, Human Resources, or if you file a formal sexual harassment claim. Documentation can be dated details of face-to-face incidents of sexual harassment, printed emails and other messages that involved harassment, and testimonies from colleagues who witnessed the harassment. To make your claim as strong as possible, it’s important to have documentation of repeated comments or behaviors.
Your initial report should be to your supervisor. Document this interaction because if it does not end the harassment, you will have to make a report to Human Resources. Document this interaction as well.
Working with a Lawyer to Pursue a Sexual Harassment Claim
If reporting your sexual harassment experiences to Human Resources does not bring an end to the behavior, consider working with an experienced employment lawyer to file a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate your claim and if it finds you suffered financial damages because of the harassment, may facilitate a settlement between you and the company.
Work with a Premier New Jersey Employment Law Firm
When you are facing sexual harassment in your workplace, work with a lawyer who has experience helping sexual harassment victims get justice. At Sattiraju Law Firm, P.C., we help employees get just results and recover any monetary compensation they lost due to harassment or punitive actions by the employer for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. Sattiraju Law Firm, P.C. is one of New Jersey and New York’s premier employment law firms. Our previous case successes include a $2.8 million class action settlement on behalf of a group of truck drivers, a New Jersey whistleblower trial that settled for $560,000, and a $22.6 million hostile work environment trial, the largest in New Jersey to date. Contact our office today for your free case review.
Sexual Harassment Basics [Infographic]
Learn More About Sexual Harassment
Commonly Asked Questions About Sexual Harassment
Can I claim a work environment is hostile even if I’m not the subject of sexual comments?
You might be able to. Comments, gestures, and jokes that denigrate or sexualize a person can make the workplace intolerable, for men and for women. The fact that you are not the target of the harassment does not prevent you from claiming that a hostile work environment exists. Of course, a question will exist as to whether the offensive conduct is sufficiently harassing that a reasonable person would find it difficult to continue working. But the key point stands: you can claim harassment even if you are not the target of it.
My boss is always saying negative things about women but never flirts. Is this sexual harassment
It could be. Sexual harassment is much more than flirting or sexualizing someone. Instead, a hostile work environment can exist when someone makes repeated derogatory statements about either gender. Things like, “women are irrational” or “you only think that way because you are a woman” are offensive and have no place at work. These types of sex-based comments can rise to the level of sexual harassment if they create a hostile environment. Of course, a stray comment or a single joke is probably not enough, but you should meet with an attorney to review all of the conduct you have experienced.
If I had an affair with my boss who promised to promote me, was that sexual harassment?
Possibly. Quid pro quo sexual harassment exists when a boss conditions a promotion on your consenting to have sexual relations. But everything depends on the context. For example, what did your boss say exactly? Did he make a firm promise to promote you or were these offhand comments about you possibly moving up in the company? Did the affair start well before any statements were made about promotion? What kind of evidence do you have to support your claim? We strongly encourage you to meet with a New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to review the evidence because you just might have a valid claim.