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Understanding sexual harassment in the workplace

Are you dealing with sexual harassment at work? If you are faced with unwanted sexual conduct, including dirty jokes, sexual banter or exposure to pornography, you could have a legal basis to file a claim. However, not every sexual remark can lead to a strong sexual harassment lawsuit. Learn more about how sexual harassment in the workplace is defined so that you can take appropriate action.

Quid pro quo

The first type of sexual harassment happens when a supervisor requires you to comply with sexual advances with threats of adverse action. If your supervisor has ever required a sexual favor by threatening demotion or termination, you may be dealing with sexual harassment. This form of sexual harassment involves managers or others in higher positions who can take employment action against you.

Hostile work environment

Supervisors are not the only people capable of committing sexual harassment. In fact, any employer is capable of creating a hostile work environment. This form of harassment is characterized by unwelcome sexual conduct that creates an offensive or intimidating work environment.

Unwelcome conduct

In order for behavior to be classified as sexual harassment, you must prove that it was not welcomed by you. Certain circumstances are easier to prove than others. For example, being threatened with assault or physically groped is almost indisputably unwelcome conduct in many cases. In other situations, such as telling dirty jokes, the perpetrator would likely claim he or she was not aware you did not find the conduct unwelcome. That is why it is important to clearly state when you don't welcome behavior and keep track of further actions taken against you.

Severe and pervasive

The law determines behavior as sexual harass ment when it is so pervasive or severe that it causes an abusive work environment. This can occur due to one severe act like physical assault. It can also be several acts over time, like daily offensive jokes that are pervasive and affect the workplace.

Sexual harassment can come from a supervisor, coworker, company owner, vendor or customer. The gender of perpetrators and victims doesn't matter. Experiencing unwelcome and hostile sexual conduct from anyone in your workplace can be disheartening, frustrating and demoralizing. You can put a stop to it and find a resolution. If you feel like you are the victim of sexual harassment at your workplace, consult with an employment attorney. Enlisting the help of a legal professional can help you navigate through your company's complaint system, investigations and court case if necessary.

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