Many questions arise when an employee has issues at work that may be harassment related. Can I sue my boss for being mean? Is it legal for a manager to be a bully? How do I know if I am being harassed at work and what rights do I have? Do I have a sexual harassment claim? Is name calling considered harassment? What if I am afraid to make a complaint against my boss? Should I make a verbal or written complaint about the harassment? Is gossip considered harassment? What kind of lawyer handles harassment in the workplace? What if I feel unsafe at work? When these questions are raised by a frustrated employee seeking answers, an Employment Attorney is a type of lawyer that handles cases where employees need representation in claims against their employer.
- Gossip can be a form of sexual harassment
Unwanted touching and cat-calling are not the only ways sexual harassment can be exercised. Spreading rumors is a form of sexual harassment. The spreading of rumors can be by the harasser himself or herself or the rumors can be about the employee and the harasser but spread by other employees. The main issue is that an employee has the right to work in an environment that is free from harassment. If gossip is going around the workplace about the employee that is of a sexual nature, this may be considered as a form of sexual harassment. For example, Clark was a barista at a coffee house. Upon Clark’s first day of work, he began enduring sexual advances made towards him by his shift manager Tina. Often Tina would express her feelings for Clark through her body language by making suggestive movements with her hands and mouth. On other occasions, Tina would humiliate Clark in front of his coworkers by making comments such as “see you at home honey” and “I want to have your babies”. After witnessing this behavior from Tina, Clark’s coworkers began teasing him about his “love Goddess Tina” and would frequently hoot and holler at the two of them when they had shifts together. The gossip in addition to the harassment he was experiencing from Tina interfered with Clark’s work and caused him major anxiety. He called the Human Resources Department at the coffee house headquarters and made a formal complaint about his uncomfortable predicament at work. In this scenario, Clark’s employer would need to correct the issue by conducting an investigation and take reasonable steps to discontinue the sexual harassment caused by Tina as well as the rumors and teasing caused by his coworkers. If the harassment continued and nothing was done to stop the harassment from continuing, Clark may have a claim against his employer.
- Certain types of favors can be considered a form of sexual harassment
“I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” is a common saying that just means an exchange of favors, but sometimes certain favors offered in the workplace are considered unlawful.
A sexual quid pro quo offer is a type of harassment. A sexual quid pro quo offer is identified through an offer made by an employer to an employee which entails sexual favors in exchange for employee benefits. For example, an employer may offer an employee better hours if the employee agrees to go on a date with the employer. Here, although this may seem rather tame, this type of behavior is not to be taken lightly because it is a form of sexual harassment especially when it is unwelcome, This form of sexual harassment is not only demonstrated through an offer of employment benefits, it can also be an offer for a sexual favors in exchange for job security. This type of “exchange” may come off as a threat. For example, an employer may tell an employee that they will “let them” keep their job if the employee agrees to have an intimate relationship with the employer. In that scenario, this kind of “offer” may also be considered a form of sexual quid pro quo and therefore may be sexual harassment.
In taking into account all of the facts, an Employment Attorney would most likely be able to identify whether or not an employee was a victim of sexual harassment by means of sexual quid pro quo.
- Touching, leering and body language may be a form of sexual harassment
Identifying sexual harassment can be a grey area because it can be somewhat subjective. Feeling uncomfortable can be used as a guide in the first few steps in identifying sexual harassment. Touching, leering, and certain body language in certain situations can be considered as a form of sexual harassment when it is unwelcome. For example, an employee may experience certain unwanted behavior towards them by another coworker such as back massages, hugging, or grabbing. Also, the employee may be subjected to the coworker making inappropriate gestures such as blowing kiss or winking. Even leering may be considered a form of sexual harassment in certain contexts. Acting out certain sexual acts in the presence of an employee may also be considered a form of sexual harassment. Again, the behavior and the context of the behavior are essential in deciding whether to file a claim against an employer.
In conclusion, note that there are different laws of State law and Federal law that regulate harassment. Keeping this in mind, sifting through what laws pertain to your claim is a job best suited for an Employment Attorney who handles harassment cases. Employees have the right to work in an environment where they feel safe and should not have to worry about feeling like they are being violated via forms of sexual harassment. An Employment Attorney may be able to shed light on a situation that may seem complicated and overwhelming. Call an Employment Attorney that offers free consultations like Stevens & McMillan. Every case has unique facts which is why an Employment Attorney endeavors to specialize in sexual harassment cases. An employee who feels uncomfortable in their workplace should provide the Employment Attorney with as much information as they can in order to obtain quality legal advice.