Sexual Harassment Attorneys in Buffalo, NY
Sexual harassment has been making the news a lot, lately. The ridesharing service Uber recently faced a scandal when a female recruiter working for the company told a potential female employee that “sexism is systemic in tech.” Shortly after that, FOX ousted longtime pundit Bill O’Reilly following media coverage of numerous sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly the company chose to settle. Similar “revelations” have rocked other industries, while now two recent U.S. presidents have been accused of sexual harassment and even rape. Meanwhile, women continue to earn unequal pay for equal work, across all fields. This power imbalance makes many women hesitant to report sexual harassment. A federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission study found that one in four women experienced workplace sexual harassment at some point in her career, but few report it. There are, however, legal protections for victims of harassment and actions victims can take, with the help of an attorney, to pursue justice, compensation, and security.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can happen to anybody, though statistic show the overwhelming majority of victims are women. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
Protect Against Sexual Harassment, from Prevention to Litigation
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains. Employers must understand that they are legally responsible to provide a safe working environment; if they fail to take action to correct a reported behavior, they become legally liable, and may find themselves – along with the alleged harasser – in court.