Sexual harassment is rampant in many workplace environments–even environments that should be considered “safe.” You should never have to be uncomfortable at work due to a coworker’s off-color jokes or continuing pursuit of you even after you’ve let them know that their behavior is making you uncomfortable. Unfortunately, getting rid of the negative behavior isn’t always that easy. When is it time to contact a lawyer to start working with you to resolve sexual harassment issues? This guide will help you decide.
Defining Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment, in the eyes of the law, is defined as “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment.” Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as simply indicating that you’ve been made uncomfortable because of someone’s comments. In order to qualify as sexual harassment, conduct must meet one of the following three categories:
- Sexual conduct is, either implicitly or explicitly, being made a condition of working or continuing to work in a particular location
- The activities or inferences interfere with an individual’s ability to perform their job duties correctly
- The sexual conduct creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment.
If an action doesn’t meet one of these three categories, it’s not legally defined as sexual harassment. That means that hiring a lawyer for actions outside them won’t do you any good–and can turn into even more of a hassle than the behavior that’s bothering you. Note, however, that “unwelcome behavior” is a critical element of sexual harassment: if you’re made uncomfortable, it’s worth taking the steps necessary to make the behavior stop.
When Do You Draw the Line?
Your coworker thinks that it’s funny to make sexually-charged jokes every time he walks past your desk. Perhaps a manager disagrees with your sexual orientation and goes out of their way to make that obvious every time they’re around you. When is enough considered to be enough? Where do you draw the line between “just joking”–however obnoxious it might be–and a serious problem that requires legal intervention?
Are you experiencing a genuine problem with sexual harassment? Does the behavior either create an unreasonable strain on you in the workplace, prevent you from doing your job, or make you wonder whether or not your job could be on the line if you don’t fall in line?
Are you familiar with your company’s reporting policy? Most companies have a solid policy in place for reporting and dealing with sexual harassment. If your company is typically straightforward in their dealings with victims of harassment, it may not be worth the time to hire a lawyer. On the other hand, if your company often deals poorly with sexual harassment problems, hiring a lawyer can help you move through the process more smoothly.
Are you concerned that your rights won’t be protected? Some workplaces are better than others about protecting the rights of an employee who has experienced harassment in the workplace. If you’re worried that your workplace may favor the individual who is harassing you (perhaps, for example, they are in a management position or have been with the company longer), hiring a lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure that your company follows the proper process for dealing with the issue.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue. It can quickly become frustrating, weigh you down, and make you feel as though your contributions aren’t appropriately valued in your workplace. Thankfully, there are things you can do to stop harassment in its tracks. If you’re concerned about dealing with the problem alone, hiring a lawyer is a great way to make sure that you’ll have your concerns heard and that your problem will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
If you find yourself needing a sexual harassment layer, contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy today. We’ll work with you to ensure that you don’t have to endure harassment in the workplace any longer.