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Reporting Sexual Harassment and Legal Standards and Defenses

The law prohibits sexual harassment at work, which generally means unwelcome sexual conduct or advances that alter or significantly impact an employee’s work environment or the terms and conditions of employment. The law generally recognizes two forms of sexual harassment:

1. “Quid pro quo harassment” occurs when submission to or rejection of sexual conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting an employee. In such circumstances, the employer is generally liable for the sexual harassment when the employee was subject to a tangible employment action such as:

  • Hiring and firing;
  • Promotion and failure to promote;
  • Demotion;
  • Undesirable reassignment;
  • Compensation decisions; and
  • Undesirable work assignment.

2. “Sexually Hostile Work Environment” occurs when the conduct has the effect or purpose of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance or creating an intimidating, offensive, or hostile working situation. To constitute a sexually hostile work environment, the offensive conduct must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive ‘to alter the conditions of [the victim's] employment and create an abusive working environment.’” Thus, one sexual incident, if extremely severe could be enough to show a hostile work environment. Or, numerous sexual comments over a period of time may be considered pervasive enough to constitute actionable sexual harassment.

Reporting Sexual Harassment And Defenses Raised By Employers:

In many cases, an employee may need to report the sexual harassment so the employer has a chance to address the situation. Crews Law Firm, PC helps employees report the harassment so that it is properly addressed and the employee is not retaliated for her or his report. Employers have a duty to reasonably prevent and promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior and may have other liability once the harassment is reported.

The law allows employers to also raise certain other defenses in sexual harassment cases. Employers sometimes claim that the harassment was “consensual” or the victim took part in harassment. Employers also sometimes defend themselves by arguing that the actions or comments were not serious or frequent enough to be illegal “sexual harassment.” Crews Law Firm is very familiar with all of these defenses, which often are simply wrong or have no merit. Our attorneys help victims of sexual harassment fight these defenses and protect their legal rights.

If you or a loved one have been sexually harassed at work, call (512) 346-7077 today or click here to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers.