What is sexual harassment?

Harassment in the workplace typically can happen in two ways:

  1. A supervisor demands sexual favors from an employee in return for extending benefits or for not taking adverse action. This is called quid pro quo or “this for that” harassment.
  2. A supervisor takes actions or creates conditions for an employee that make the job intolerable. This is called a hostile work environment and can occur in connection with sexual harassment or any of the other forms of unlawful discrimination.

What kind of conduct can be harassment?

“Harassment” sufficient to support a lawsuit can take many forms. Here’s a partial list:

  1. Unwanted sexual advances
  2. Asking for sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits
  3. Distribution of written communications on paper or by e-mail that are derogatory or offensive, or involve stereotypes based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, and so on
  4. Derogatory or offensive comments, slurs, jokes, or nicknames
  5. Leering, offensive gestures or display of derogatory or offensive photographs, calendars, cartoons, drawings, posters and so on
  6. Assault, impeding or blocking movements, or touching
  7. Retaliation for reporting harassment or threatening to report it

What to do if you believe you have been subjected to harassment

If you believe you have been refused a job, terminated from a job, or been subjected to adverse action or a hostile work environment in your job because of any of these characteristics or actions, you should:

  1. Immediately report the conduct to the appropriate person in your company and follow your employer's process for filing and pursuing a complaint. This is absolutely essential.
  2. If your employer does not resolve the situation and the harassment continues, immediately seek legal advice, but be sure to gather the following information before you talk to a lawyer:
    1. Your name, date of birth, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address
    2. Your employer’s name, address and phone number
    3. The names and positions or job titles of the persons who harassed you
    4. The names, addresses and contact information of other persons who might have knowledge about your case, such as co-workers, current and former employees of your employer, current and former supervisors, government agency investigators, and so on.
    5. Your income and benefits you are or were receiving from your employer
    6. A list of all crucial dates, including
      1. the date you applied for the job if you were turned down
      2. the date you were hired
      3. your current income and earnings history
      4. the date of each adverse action, including the date of termination if you were fired
    7. A chronological description of the events that led up to the employer’s action
    8. Copies of all communications between you and your employer or your co-workers that might pertain to the reason for your employer’s action
    9. Copies of any employee handbook or policies and procedures handbooks issued by your employer to its employees
    10. Information or documents concerning any training or other efforts by your employer to prevent harassment
    11. Documents such as pay stubs that show your income, from the entire time that you have worked for this employer
    12. Your work history, including training, income and benefits

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