FAQs about Sexual Harassment and How to Protect Yourself

What is sexual harassment?

Employees are protected from unwanted sexual attention in the workplace under federal law, Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, and many state and local laws. Employees protected under the federal law must work at a facility that employs 15 or more employees, and covered employers include private and public sector employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and federal, state, and local governments.

The critical standard to determine if you have been or are being sexually harassed is if the conduct in question is unwelcome. Even if you participated in conduct of a sexual nature actively, if the victim feels the conduct to be offensive or objectionable, it is likely unwelcome behavior.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following in the workplace or related to the workplace:

1. Unwelcome sexual advances; and/or
2. Request(s) for sexual favors; and/or
3. Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature is considered sexual harassment when it affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work product or performance; and/or
4. Jokes or comments of a sexual nature that are unwelcome; and/or
5. Conduct of a sexual nature that creates or contributes to an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an acting agent of the employer, a co-worker or supervisor from another work area or department, or even a non-employee. Sexual harassment is not determined by the gender of the victim or the harasser; the harasser may be the same sex as the victim.

What action should I take if I feel I am being sexually harassed?

First, an employee who feels they are a victim of sexual harassment should document each encounter and any subsequent incident which follows. Text messages, e-mail, notes, voicemail documenting the conduct should be saved along with any hand written or typed notes regarding the victim’s experience with the harasser.

Next, reach out for help. Speak to an attorney prior to investigating and reporting according to company policy with regard to sexual harassment, especially if there is concern about internal retaliation against the victim for reporting the harassment.

You may even have a claim, despite the fact that you might not be the intended victim of the harassment. All employees are protected under the law from offensive conduct related to sexual harassment.

I left my old job due to sexual harassment. Is it too late to take legal action?

You have a finite amount of time to file a claim with your state or city’s reporting agency. The statute of limitations varies from state to state, and your city may even have an ordinance specific to your harassment claim. Contact an attorney for legal advice and guidance into filing your claims to better understand your rights and if you can still take legal action against your harasser.

I’m worried my employer will retaliate against me for filing a sexual harassment claim. What can I do to protect myself?

Once an employee reports sexual harassment to an employer, whether the harasser is employed with the company or not, the employer must take steps to address the victim’s concerns. Further, it is in violation of the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for rejecting and/ or reporting sexual misconduct. If an employee reports harassment and the employer takes action against the reporting employee, the employee may have a legal claim for retaliation. An employer who knows sexual harassment is taking place and takes no action to prevent further harassment or retaliation, may be held legally responsible.

If you feel like you have been subjected to unwanted attention of a sexual nature, speak to an attorney to better understand your rights. He or she can help you to determine if you have a claim and a right to legal protection. Neil Henrichsen is an AV Rated attorney, the highest rating by one of the nation’s oldest attorney rating companies. Contact Neil Henrichsen at nhenrichsen@hslawyers.com

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