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Learn About The Legal Remedies Against Sexual Harassment In Organizations

Sexual harassment at the workplace can happen in many forms. It can leave a negative impact on an organization and its reputation. Anyone working in an office can be a victim of harassment either by a customer, a coworker, a superior, or a client. It can be anything inappropriate like cracking vulgar jokes, sexualized touching, or someone promising promotion for sexual favors. Harassment doesn’t have to be “sexual.” Sexual harassment at the workplace can be teasing or passing offensive comments or bullying someone or a group due to their gender identity (trans, male, female, intersex) or sex orientation (straight, queer, gay, asexual, etc.) 

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment means any sexual conduct, gesture, or advance action on the job which forms an intimidating, offensive, or hostile work situation. These can make an employee uncomfortable and even make them leave the workplace.

Sexual harassment at the workplace can happen in many forms. These are some harassment examples:

  • A senior asking an employee to sleep with him/her for a salary hike or to keep the job safe
  • A clerk making offensive comments about female customers
  • A lawyer makes a manager uncomfortable in a law firm by making sexually explicit jokes or remarks. 
  • A coworker pinches and fondles another coworker against her will.
  • An employee sends mail to a coworker with sexual jokes and language.

Anyone Can Be Harassed Sexually

Anyone can be vulnerable to sexual harassment at the workplace. It is more about power rather than sexual desire. For example, men identifying as straight can also sexually harass other men through bullying and teasing (saying that they’re “acting gay” or looking “feminine”). 

It can still count as harassment even when, at the moment, you don’t quickly say “stop” or anything else to let the person know that what they say or do is not appropriate. For example, sometimes you might laugh at a joke that you find offensive, accept a hug as you’re unaware of the moment, or worry that the person will not react well if you don’t go along with their behavior. 

When the harasser is someone of higher authority, the victim might be afraid of saying “no.” They think that speaking up will impact their job. These are normal responses to sexual harassment at the workplace. Responding in this manner doesn’t affect the seriousness of the case or make the victim responsible.

Laws And Regulations To Protect Against Harassment

Sexual harassment at the workplace is sexual discrimination, so it is illegal nationwide. Generally, these legal remedies for sexual harassment only apply to employers having 15 or more employees, but there might be different laws in your state to cover small employers.

In 1980, the United States supreme court made some changes to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It included sex-based discrimination as sexual harassment in the workplace. After implementing it, the law recognized sexual harassment as a type of sex-based discrimination, and it is for private employers having 15 or more employees, labor, and government organizations. 

According to Title VII legal remedies for sexual harassment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for employers to let anyone get harassed sexually by anyone else, regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientation. 

Structure Of Title VII For Employee Protection

Sexual harassment at the workplace is illegal inside and outside. Title VII structure makes employers offer a work environment to employees that is free from harassment or any other type of discrimination. It doesn’t make it legal for anyone to harass people. Rather, it makes it illegal for employers to let sexual harassment at the workplace continue after knowing that it is happening there. So, under this civil rights law, the victim doesn’t get the right to sue an individual employee. Rather they can sue their employer for the same. 

It Is Also Illegal To Retaliate

Anyone at work can also retaliate against (punishing) for speaking or reporting sexual harassment at the workplace or participating in an investigation or legal action. Retaliation examples in the workplace can be being demoted or fired, getting pay cut or reduced work hours or benefits, or asking to take time off without getting paid. 

Such retaliation can be subtle, build up, or worsen over time. Some examples are facing discrimination from coworkers, no office meeting invitations, or being left off from communications. 

It Is Illegal To Ignore Complaints Or Retaliate

Suppose a boss is someone in HR who knows about harassment, or you must know that you’re getting harassed. In that case, they should also take prompt action to stop the behavior, investigate harassment, and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. The action should also be effective and appropriate. They should stop sexual harassment in the workplace that is illegal inside and outside, without harming the victim or making them a retaliation target. 

Victims can tell their boss and complain to HR or other managers about sexual harassment at the workplace. Victims can take legal action when they cannot do anything to improve the situation. 

What Strategies Can Employers Adapt Prevent Harassment

You can try these useful solutions to harassment in the workplace to minimize sexual harassment. Although you might not be able to follow all of the listed steps, you must follow most of them.

Have clear policies about sexual harassment at the workplace: In the employees’ handbook, you should also have a policy devoted to sexual harassment. The policy must:

  • State that you should not tolerate the harassment
  • Define sexual harassment
  • Tell them you’ll fire people who commit such incidents
  • Have a clear process to file complaints 
  • Tell them that you’ll look into the matters
  • Also, let people know that you won’t bear retaliation against people who complain. 

You must train your employees at least once a year. Have special employee sessions and describe solutions to harassment in the workplace. With these sessions, employees would learn about sexual harassment in the workplace. Explain that employees have the right to a harassment-free workplace. Review the process and ask the employees to use it. 

Requirements For Sexual Harassment Law Training

Many states need certain employers to conduct training for sexual harassment. For example, according to California law, employers must have at least 50 employees for offering supervisors two hours of interactive training on sexual harassment laws. 

Most states strongly recommend employers to offer such training, even when there is no legal requirement for it. It’s a good idea to follow it – even when your state does not suggest or require training. Your managers should know about the law and things to do when employees complain about the situation. If your organization is facing a lawsuit, you’ll be able to show that you followed the necessary steps for preventing sexual harassment at the workplace. 

Train managers and supervisors: This training session should happen at least once a year. Conduct training sessions for managers and supervisors. These sessions should be conducted separately from employee sessions. Businesses should educate their supervisors about sexual harassment and explain handling complaints. 

Handle complaints seriously: When people complain about sexual harassment, act immediately to look into the matter. If there is a valid complaint, organizations should have a quick and efficient response. 

Monitor the workplace: Periodically monitor the employee’s behavior and the office environment. Talk with them about the work environment. Ask about input. Also, look around the workplace. Ask questions such as, “Did you get notes or offensive postures?” Talk to the managers and supervisors about what is going on. 

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Responsibilities Of The Department Under Such Policies

When someone complains of sexual harassment in the workplace, the department has a reason to believe it is there. The department should take all necessary steps to ensure that the matter is quickly investigated and addressed. When the allegation is considered credible, the department takes quick and worthwhile measures to end any unwelcoming behavior. The department must take action when it learns of any possible sexual harassment in the workplace, even when the person doesn’t want to file any formal complaint. 

The main contact point for questioning about sexual harassment is the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), as it oversees or investigates sexual harassment investigations. S/OCR ensures that all investigations for sexual harassment in the workplace are conducted promptly and impartially. 

Supervisors and other department officials who are informed of suspect incidents of possible sexual harassment should report such incidents to S/OCR, which initiates a prompt investigation. Failure to report incidents to S/OCR must be considered a policy violation, resulting in disciplinary action. 

Supervisors must take valid steps to ensure that no alleged or apparent harassment is pending investigation. The department must protect the identities of the victim and the harasser, except as reasonably necessary (for example) to complete any investigation. 

Necessary Steps For Victims To Take In Unfavorable Situations

Victims of sexual harassment at the workplace can file a complaint with a government agency when the employer is aware of the incidence and is not taking the required resolution measures. They can either ignore the report, retaliate against you (punish), support someone’s harassment complaint, or file legal complaints with government agencies, either with the state’s civil rights and anti-discrimination agency. 

When the department finds any employee making unwelcome sexual conduct toward another employee (whether it meets the legal definition of sexual harassment at the workplace or not) will be subject to management action. It depends on the situation, ranging from a suspension letter to leaving for a cause. 

Based on their state, victims of sexual harassment at the workplace get 180 to 300 days from the last time they were harassed to file a complaint with EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). 

Conclusion

The law does not prohibit offhand comments, isolated incidents, or simple teasing that are not serious. Although, harassment would be illegal when it is severe or frequent that it forms an offensive or hostile environment or when the outcome is an adverse employment decision (like demoting and firing the victim). Suppose you are a business that wants to maintain a great workplace environment for equal employment of both genders. In that case, we suggest you book a consultation with expert lawyers of Business Tax Benefits. We are a highly enthusiastic team of individuals who master our trades and form all-around solutions for business. 

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