Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is forbidden by law. Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct directed at an employee because of his or her sex. The motivation for the unwelcome conduct or comments can be sexual attraction, sexual titillation, hostility, or intimidation. The harassment can involve same-sex harassment, harassment by a man against a woman, or a woman against a man.

Sexual Harassment has two forms:

Hostile Work Environment: A hostile work environment is one that is offensive, oppressive, humiliating or intimidating, and deprives an employee of his or her right to a work in a place free of discrimination. Examples of unwelcome conduct include classic sexual propositions, unwarranted graphic discussion of sexual acts, and comments about the employee's body.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: This type of harassment occurs when an employer conditions employment or benefits of employment upon an employee's submission to unwelcome sexual advances. The classic example is the promise of a promotion in exchange for sex.

Many employees who suffer harassment are reluctant to report such conduct for fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, this fear is all too often well-founded. Nonetheless, where the employer provides a complaint procedure, and taking advantage of that procedure would not subject the employee to "undue risk, expense or humiliation," it is often in the employee's best interest to make a complaint. Failure to make a complaint may limit damages or bar a claim completely in some circumstances.

Failing to report harassment prior to suing may be excused where the harassed employee knows the employer had a record of failing to act appropriately in response to such complaints or of retaliating against the victims. If there is an uninvolved manager or Human Resources manager to whom you can bring a complaint, it probably makes sense to do so. You may well obtain the relief from harassment you are looking for, or, if not, you will preserve your claim should you decide to sue. It is best to make a written complaint, even if you present it in a meeting in which you also make a verbal complaint. Then, there can be no dispute later over whether you made a complaint or not.