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Know Your Rights: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Know Your Rights: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

There's no reason to put up with sexual harassment.

AdminSecret and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

You may think that sexual advances are just a part of the stereotype that surrounds administrative staff – for years, the “Secretary” icon has been linked to sexuality and femininity in a derogatory manner. For some, the boss’s daily comment on how you look is just part of the job. After all, you’re the first person that clients encounter, you have to look nice, right? Yes, but that doesn’t give your employer, or anyone else for that matter, the right to comment on it in a way you don’t appreciate. In some circumstances, it violates your civil rights.

Read on for all the gritty details of this too-often occurrence, and what admins can help do to stop perpetuating the myth that secretaries are sexual playthings. Channel your inner HR manager and take responsibility. It’s not the 1950’s anymore!

The printable version is included as a link at the end of the article.

What is the Definition of Sexual Harassment?



Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome 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 a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

• The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

• The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

• The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

• Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

• The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

Statistics


In Fiscal Year 2008, EEOC received 13,867 charges of sexual harassment. 15.9% of those charges were filed by males. EEOC resolved 11,731 sexual harassment charges in FY 2008 and recovered $47.4 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).

Next: For Small Employers and Their Admins: What Are You Liable For?


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