Sexual Harassment

An Employee Should Feel Safe

An employee should feel safe in their workplace.  When a supervisor sexually harasses an employee that they supervise, or when a co-worker sexually harasses another co-worker and the employer knows about it but does nothing to stop it, the employer can be held liable for fostering a “hostile work environment.”

Overt, or Subtle?

Sexual harassment can be overt, or it can be subtle.  The most common example of overt sexual harassment is when a male supervisor makes explicit sexual comments to a female employee, or offers some form of advancement or increased compensation in exchange for sexual acts (known as “quid pro quo”).  While these examples certainly constitute unlawful sexual harassment, sexual harassment claims are not limited to such obvious conduct.  Moreover, anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of sex or gender.  Other examples include, but are not limited to: 

  • Unwelcome “jokes” or stories of a sexual nature; 
  • Inappropriate and/or unwanted touching; 
  • Gestures or words (such as “catcalls” or whistling), intended to focus on an employee’s appearance, sex, gender, gender identity, or sexuality; 
  • Intrusive questions about a person’s sex, gender, gender identity, sexuality, or sexual activities; 
  • Insults intended to demean or mock people based on their sex, gender, gender identity, sexuality, or sexual activities

Is it Pervasive?

Although inappropriate, not every instance of bad behavior rises to the level of unlawful sexual harassment.  In explicit, or overt, instances, one time may be sufficient to constitute unlawful sexual harassment.  In other instances, like with inappropriate jokes or stories, the focus is on the frequency, or “pervasiveness,” of the conduct that may result in an overall hostile work environment.  It is important to consult an attorney to determine whether the conduct to which you are subjected constitutes unlawful sexual harassment.

Contact the Sexual Harrassment lawyers at Clifford & Clifford to discuss your case.