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Defining sexual harassment and a hostile work environment

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2023 | Sexual Harassment

We all experience a case of the Mondays from time to time; however, dreading going to work every day because you do not want to interact with a certain coworker is not a normal or acceptable experience. When a colleague or supervisor makes you feel uncomfortable due to their inappropriate comments or physical interactions with you, this could rise to the level of sexual harassment.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

Based on federal regulations, sexual harassment occurs when there are unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. It becomes workplace sexual harassment when this conduct is or becomes a condition of their employment, whether implied or explicitly stated, or is used for an employment action, such as a promotion, raise or termination.

Federal regulations also state that sexual harassment occurs when the conduct has the purpose or effect to unreasonably interfere with the employee’s work performance or in turn causes a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment.

Hostile work environment

A hostile work environment is defined as having a variety of sexual harassment occurring, and the presence of them are so pervasive that it creates an offensive workplace. This often includes conduct such as demeaning or sexual images, jokes or threats.

In order to establish a hostile work environment, the court will consider a variety of factors. This includes the frequency of the alleged behavior, the severity of the behavior, the victim’s conduct or response to the behavior, the context of the alleged harassment, the size of the place of employment, the nature of business conducted, whether a reasonable person would consider it a hostile work environment, the actions taken by the employer to remedy the matter and whether the employee reported the behavior.

Speaking up about sexual harassment is not easy. You might be unsure if it qualifies as sexual harassment, are fearful of retaliation for filing a claim or are simply nervous and uncomfortable to talk about it. These are all understandable concerns and could all be addressed when seeking legal guidance about your rights and options.