Sexual harassment is an offensive yet systematic occurrence in many workplaces. As we discussed in a previous article, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advancements, comments, requests, and other forms of physical or verbal harassment that are sexual in nature. A 2018 survey by Stop Street Harassment found that 81% of women and 43% of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can come in many forms, including:
- Electronic communication (texts, emails, etc.) of a sexual nature
- Gestures of a sexual nature
- Inappropriate comments about someone’s body or appearance
- Overt staring or leering
- Purposefully blocking someone’s path or barring their movement
- The usage of gender-based or sexual orientation-based slurs
- Unwanted or inappropriate touching, hugging, kissing, and/or assault
- Unwanted requests for sexual favors or dates
- Vulgar or explicit jokes of a sexual nature (directly aimed at you or overheard)
Thankfully, you actually have many rights encouraging a workplace safe from sexual harassment.
Employee Rights Related to Sexual Harassment
As an employee, you have the right to:
- Work in a safe and discrimination-free environment.
- Be informed about your company’s sexual harassment policy and how to report inappropriate behavior.
- Discuss or speak out against sexual harassment, whether it’s happening to you or a coworker (or even to someone else not employed by but within the grounds of your workplace).
- Report the harassment to Human Resources or your supervisor.
- Protest sexual harassment or other kinds of employee discrimination.
- Have your complaint taken seriously and investigated by the proper department.
- Learn from your employer what will happen if you file a complaint and who will be notified about it.
- File a complaint with a government agency such as the State of West Virginia Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
- File a lawsuit against your employer.
- Testify as a witness in a sexual harassment trial or participate in an investigation by a government agency.
With these rights in mind, employees can actually have an advantage in sexual harassment cases. However, we understand that despite these rights it can be difficult to face what happened or even to convince your associates to take your claims seriously. This is where a trusted legal advocate comes in. If you have been sexually harassed at work, we can help.