In the last year, victims of sexual harassment have found their voice and began breaking the silence that workplace bullies and abusers have relied on for far too long. The #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp campaign, with their strength in numbers, have given many victims the courage to reclaim their voice and their dignity. While stories of media moguls, journalists, members of Congress and other high-profile people have helped propel the issue into the national spotlight, many victims remain silenced by threats and intimidation.
Earlier this year, a study commissioned by Stop Street Harassment showed that, across the country, “81 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime,” including in their workplaces.
Sexual harassment is outlawed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it is a form of discrimination, as explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an agency that was created to enforce, among other laws, Title VII. The agency defines sexual harassment as “[u]nwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” Sexual harassment can occur in various forms and under a number of circumstances and employers with 15 or more employees are subject to Title VII, including state and local governments.
Because sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and discrimination is a type of workplace injury, employers are encouraged to implement policies and procedures prohibiting and addressing sexual harassment. Without such measures, victims feel as if they have no choice but to endure the bad behavior and perpetrators are left with the belief that their behavior is acceptable. Failure to address harassment can land employers in court just like the seven U.S. companies that were slapped with lawsuits by the EEOC this summer. Further, employers cannot retaliate against employees or individuals taking steps to oppose unlawful employment practices such as sexual harassment.
As with other instances where employees who have been cheated or abused at the hands of an employer or even fired over reporting discrimination, employees should know their rights when it comes to workplace sexual harassment. There are solutions and measures to hold accountable those employers that fail to protect their employees.
If you have any questions about whether you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or for additional information before filing a claim, you can contact an attorney at Beasley Allen.
Stop Street Harassment
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)