Unlawful harassment can happen to anyone, employees, applicants, unpaid interns or volunteers or contractors. It could be based on one or multiple of many different protected classes:
- Religious creed
- National origin
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Medical condition
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Gender identity
- Gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Military and veteran status
Specifically, even in the “me too” era, sexual harassment still exists. Federal and State law defines sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (1) submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as basis for employment decisions affecting the individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
This definition includes many forms of harassing behavior that employees should be aware of. The following is a partial list of harassing conduct:
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
- Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances.
- Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters.
- Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, sexually explicit jokes, comments about an employee’s body or dress, open discussions and conversations of a sexual nature.
- Verbal sexual advances or propositions.
- Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentary about an individual’s body sexually degrading words to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations.
- Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements.
- Retaliation for reporting harassment or threatening to report harassment.
The harassment could be a pattern of conduct or even a single incident that is very offensive and seriously impacts your work environment. Further, it is unlawful for males to sexually harass females or other males, and for females to sexually harass males or other females. Sexual harassment on the job is unlawful whether it involves co-worker harassment, harassment by a supervisor or manager, or by persons doing business with or for the employer. Both the employer and harasser can be liable for sexual harassment.
Lastly, the laws protect you from complaining about harassment. If you have been subject to harassment or retaliation at work, please schedule an appointment with our office.