Labor and Employment

Employees Sexual Harassment FAQ

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Q: I told my supervisor that I was being sexually harassed, but I asked her not to do anything about it. She's investigating anyway. Isn't she supposed to keep my confidence?

  • A:Your employer must take reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment and your employer must take reasonable care to promptly correct sexual harassment that has occurred. Your employer must thoroughly investigate your sexual harassment charge even if you ask her not to investigate.

Nonetheless, your employer has to make every effort to keep your identity confidential during and after the investigation.

Q: Is it sexual harassment if the harassment is only verbal?

  • A:Verbal harassment can be sexual harassment. Words can be just as offensive as physical acts and contact. Jokes and stories can be sexually harassing and create a hostile work environment.

Employers are responsible for investigating and stopping this type of behavior just as much as incidents involving physical contact.

Q: Is my employer responsible if I am sexually harassed at a company-sponsored event outside of working hours?

  • A:Employers are responsible for the misconduct of their employees at company-sponsored events if they don't take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment. Factors include the amount of alcohol served at the event and whether the company had anti-harassment policies in place for employer events.

Q: Is same sex harassment illegal?

  • A:Yes.Harassment on the basis of a person's gender or sex is illegal. Males can harass males, and females can harass females. The victim of sexual harassment doesn't have to be of the opposite sex.

Q: Is there a time limit for filing a sexual harassment claim?

  • A:Yes, you have a limited amount of time to file a charge of sexual harassment. Generally, you need to file your charge with the EEOC within 180 days from the day the harassment took place. The 180 day deadline may be extended to 300 days by state laws.

The EEOC doesn't accept charges online. However, there is an online assessment tool to help you decide if the EEOC can help you.After that, you can complete an Intake Questionnaire that you may print and either bring or mail to the appropriate EEOC field office to begin the process of filing a charge.

Federal employees and job applicants usually must contact an agency EEO Counselor for the area they work or where they applied for a job within 45 days from the day the sexual harassment happened. Each federal agency must post information about how to contact the agency's EEO Office.

If you plan on filing a lawsuit in federal or state court, you must first file a formal sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC and/or your state's fair employment agency.

Q: I've been accused of harassment. Am I entitled to know the name of the person who accused me and what they accused me of?

  • A:No. The employer is obligated to investigate the harassment and to protect the complaining employee from retaliation. However, it may be necessary for the employee's identity to be disclosed, or the employee's identity may be obvious from the facts of the complaint.

Q: I've been accused of harassment, but I don't think I did anything wrong. What should I do?

  • A:You should consider talking to an attorney. Your own opinion that you didn't do anything wrong isn't the determining factor. The determining factors are whether the act was objectively offensive and whether the other employee was honestly offended.

Your employer is obligated to investigate the harassment claim. If the investigation determines harassment took place,your employer is obligated to try to stop the harassment. That may mean anything from a verbal warning to firing you.Even if the investigation can't determine to a certainty that harassment did or did not take place,your employer still may discipline you.

Q: My co-worker says that an employer could be responsible for sexual statements, actions and so forth by non-employees. Is this really possible?

  • A:Your co-worker is correct. Although it's not nearly as common as employee sexual harassment, at times employers have been held liable for third party harassment.

Third party sexual harassment claims are most likely to arise in businesses or companies providing services, such as food service, health care and other areas with a lot of customer contact.But it may also happen in the marketing and sales arenas where a sales representative must work with customers to obtain orders.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines make clear that an employer may be responsible for the acts of non-employees with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the workplace, where the employer or its supervisors know or should have known of the conduct but don't take immediate and appropriate action to stop or prevent the harassment.

Q: My old boyfriend, who works at the same company with me, continues to make lewd comments and touch me.Can I file for sexual harassment?

  • A:Yes. You'll need to show your previous involvement with him has in fact ended and you clearly indicated to him that any sexual attention from him was no longer welcome.

Q: What is "quid pro quo" sexual harassment?

  • A:It is when a boss, supervisor, or someone with authority outright demands or implies that you must provide sexual favors in return for hiring you, keeping your job, or getting a promotion.

"Quid pro quo" is Latin for, "This for that," or in other words, "a favor for a favor."

Q: What is sexual harassment?

  • A:
    Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature directed at an applicant or employee. The conduct must affect or impact an individual's employment, unreasonably interfere with his ability to do his work,or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

The harasser may be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a non-employee, such as a client or customer.

Q: What should I do if I'm being sexually harassed?

  • A:First, you may want to tell the harasser directly the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The sexual harassment should then stop immediately. If you aren't comfortable confronting the individual, start documenting the harassment. Keep a record of all interaction you feel is inappropriate along with the date, time, place or other relevant information and your response.

Next,look at your employee handbook about information about how to report the the harassment, or talk to your supervisor or the human resources department about the situation. You should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

Once you report the situation, which should be in writing,your employer should investigate the harassment. Eventually it should let you know what it found. Your employer is obligated to attempt to stop the harassment. If you think your employer didn't fulfill its obligation under the law, consider contacting your state's anti-discrimination agency or the EEOC.

Q: What should I do if my manager is sexual harassing me?

  • A:
    Tell someone in your company, such as your human resources department or another manager you trust,about the sexual harassment. If possible, tell them in writing and keep a copy of it for your records.

It's important for you to report the harassment because your employer must know or have reason to know about the harassment to be legally responsible for the actions of your manager.

If your company doesn't have a method in place for reporting sexual harassment and you can't figure out how to let your company know about it,contact your state's anti-harassment agency,the EEOC, or an attorney in your area.

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