With all the media attention, public awareness campaigns, training, and employer initiatives on sexual harassment in the workplace, you might expect that such misconduct has been largely eliminated over the last few years. Unfortunately, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statistics indicate that issues continue to plague far too many employees. According to data for 2019, there were 12,739 charges filed with the EEOC – a disturbingly high figure when you consider that it does not include complaints submitted to various US state and local agencies.
However, an additional statistic reveals that there may be some confusion over what constitutes sexual harassment: The EEOC found that there was no reasonable cause in more than 54 percent of all complaints. A Georgia sexual harassment attorney can explain your rights, but you should understand the basics on the two types of actionable misconduct.
Legal Basis for Sexual Harassment Claims: Liability for this type of workplace misconduct is grounded in Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Acts may constitute a violation of the law if they involve unwelcome advances, and verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. Note that both indirect and direct actions may be unlawful, and both men and women may be the target of inappropriate conduct.
Two Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: In general, conduct may rise to the level of sexual harassment if it demonstrates that the harasser targeted one individual or an entire group of employees on the basis of sex. However, EEOC describes two specific forms of sexual harassment that violate the law.
- Hostile Work Environment: This category includes actions that create an intimidating, offensive, or extremely disruptive workplace setting. In most cases, a single incident will not constitute sexual harassment, unless it involves a horrific act. The conduct could be verbal comments, threats, jokes, insults, name-calling, or other abusive language. In addition, a harasser may produce a hostile work environment through:
- Physical touching, grabbing, and other assaults;
- Posting sexually suggestive or offensive materials in the workplace, either in common areas or an office space;
- Sending sexually explicit emails to one or more individuals; and,
- Many other unlawful acts.
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment: In Latin, the term means “something for something.” In the context of sexual harassment, quid pro quo means getting a favor or advantage in return for an act or omission. A common scenario is where a supervisor, manager, or boss promises an employee some benefit in exchange for engaging in sexual activity. However, there may also be quid pro quo sexual harassment where the individual takes adverse action against an employee who refuses. Examples include termination, refusal to promote, demotion, changing work hours, and related conduct.
Note that you could have a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim even if it was not you that was directly targeted. You could suffer when another employee’s advances in the company after complying with the harasser’s wishes.
Our Georgia Sexual Harassment Lawyers Can Advise You on Your Rights
If you were the subject of hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment, please contact the Vaughn Law Firm to learn more about your legal options. You may be able to recover back pay, pain and suffering compensation, and other monetary damages; it is also possible to seek equitable relief, such as a promotion or reinstatement to your position. You can set up a free case evaluation by calling our Decatur, GA office at 877.615.9495 or visiting our website. Once we learn more about your circumstances, we can advise you on next steps.