Sexual Harassment: An Illegal Conduct Punishable Under All State Laws

While the anti-sexual harassment mandate of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is imposed only on employers with at least 15 employees, there are laws enforced by the U.S. Department of State which strictly prohibit any form of sexual harassment and which warns offenders of appropriate corrective actions if allegations regarding such acts are found credible.

Sexual harassment, as defined by the U.S. Department of State, is any form of unwanted or undesirable requests for sexual favors, sexual advances or physical/verbal conduct of a sexual nature which can affect a person’s employment or his/her work performance. This illegal act may be committed either through the Quid Pro Quo type of sexual harassment of through the Hostile Environment.

Quid Pro Quo is committed by a workplace authority, such as the employer, a manager, a supervisor, etc., who has the capability to grant rewards or exact punitive actions. Thus, an employee’s promotion, benefits, awards, and other job incentives would be conditioned by his/her acceptance of, or refusal to, the sexual requests or advances made on him/her.

In a Hostile Environment, the perpetrator of the illegal act can be a superior, a (senior, junior or same level) co-worker, a customer, or anyone the victim interacts with in the workplace. This type of sexual harassment may be committed through: display of pornographic or sexually explicit materials; comments on the victim’s physical attributes or way of dressing; use of offensive or indecent language; unnecessary touching; repeated sexual teasing or sexual pranks; intentional brushing up against the victim; and, repeated suggestive sexual gestures.

Every year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives about 15,000 sexual harassment complaints from both female and male employees, though, many more are believed to be unreported. Due to this, the website of law firm Cary Kane LLP says that victims need not be afraid nor keep silent as this will only allow the perpetrators of this illegal act to go on with their offensive and unlawful conduct. The best thing to do, once a person feels and believes that he/she is being sexually harassed, is to get in touch with a lawyer immediately for the possible legal action that may need to be taken.