The legal definition of sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s job or that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It is often not hard to spot workplace sexual harassment. But proving that the behavior meets the sexual harassment definition is complicated and requires the help of employment lawyer.
Unlawful sexual harassment can include unwanted touching, sexual comments, or romantic advances. But not all sexual comments rise to the level of sexual harassment. An offhand remark will not be illegal even if inappropriate. It is only when sexual behavior or comments are so frequent or severe that they create a hostile or offensive work environment that illegal sexual harassment occurs.
A harasser might be a victim’s supervisor, a co-worker, or even a client or customer. Both the victim and the harasser can be either male or female, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex
What should I do if I’m being sexually harassed at work?
There are several steps employees should take if they are being sexually harassed. The first is to report it. Many employees who are being sexually harassed don’t come forward—whether out of fear from retaliation, shame, the hope that it will go away, or for several other understandable reasons. Still, if you are being sexually harassed, it’s important that you report the harassment to your supervisor, human resources, or another management employee. If the harasser is your supervisor, report it to someone else. Reporting the harassment in writing so there is a record is usually a good idea.
Should I report sexual harassment at work?
Yes. First, the law protects employees from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. On the other hand, employers are required to stop sexual harassment only if they know or should know about it. If a victim of harassment unreasonably fails to report the harassment, and the employer does not have actual or constructive knowledge of the harassment, the employer may be able to avoid liability.
Second, many sexual harassers will continue their behavior unless someone stops them. What might start out as offensive comments can escalate to touching and even sexual assault. More than that, it is common for sexual harassers to target multiple victims over time. An employee who doesn’t report the harassment runs the risk that he or she won’t be the last victim, and that the next one will suffer even worse harassment.
Lastly, the law protects employees from retaliation for making a good-faith complaint of sexual harassment. Although reporting harassment is scary for many employees, they should know that they are protected when they come forward.
Sexual harassment attorneys in Ohio
Under Ohio and federal law, the sexual harassment definition is technical and tricky. But you don’t have to go it alone to stand up for yourself. If you’ve been harassed at work, speak with a sexual harassment lawyer at Bolek Besser Glesius for a free consultation.