Reports of Sexual Harassment on the Rise
By: James Swartz
Managing & Principal Attorney – Car Accidents, Catastrophic Injuries, Contract and Business Litigation, Inadequate Security & Premises Liability Litigation, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability & Wrongful Death
You are not alone! According to a recent report issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were more than 7,500 reported instances of workplace sexual harassment in the United States.
The commission noted that actual instances of workplace sexual harassment was likely far higher, but victims of workplace sexual harassment are often reticent to report harassment due to fear of reprisal from their employer or co-worker. In 2019, victims of workplace sexual harassment received settlements totaling more than $68 million dollars, a record return for victims of workplace sexual harassment.
Proving Sexual Harassment Does Not Require a Pattern of Behavior
Inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace takes many forms. Conduct constituting sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or even visual. takes many forms. While many victims of sexual harassment report conduct that occurred and over weeks, months, or even years, ongoing conduct is not required to prove a claim of sexual harassment. A single instance of unwanted or unwelcome touching can rise to the level of sexual harassment.
One of the most frequent occasions where acts of sexual harassment occur is at workplace holiday parties. While this may surprise some readers, a closer look at holiday parties reveals that all the ingredients are present for creating an environment conducive to sexual harassment. Generally, alcohol flows freely at holiday parties, and supervisors and co-workers may tend to overindulge and behave inappropriately. This behavior may manifest itself in a flirty, but unwanted comment about one’s physical appearance, or a forced kiss under the mistletoe. In some cases, more offensive behavior involving someone exposing themself or even sexually assaulting a co-worker has been known to occur. Flush with liquid courage, a co-worker or supervisor with a secret crush might make unwanted advances on an unsuspecting employee. Likewise, an office secret Santa or gift exchange may lead to the giving of inappropriate gifts of a sexual nature. Even inappropriate text messages and phone calls could be considered sexual harassment. These are all examples of a single incident of conduct that could be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment Laws Guarantee Victims are Protected
Knowing your rights in the workplace is important. In addition to federal laws enforcing the rights of sexual harassment victims in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, many state and local laws exist conferring additional rights to victims of workplace sexual harassment. Massachusetts law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, including same-sex sexual harassment, quid-pro-quo harassment, and hostile work environment harassment. Massachusetts law also requires employers to investigate the sexual harassment claims of their employees.
Many people mistakenly believe that conduct occurring outside of the office or outside of work hours is not covered under state or federal law. However, this is not true, as holiday parties are generally considered to be extensions of the workplace. Employees should report any instance of inappropriate or unwelcome behavior that occurs at work-sponsored events, even if they occur outside of work hours or involve individuals who do not work for your employer. Don’t let a fear of reprisal prevent you from reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees acting in good faith who report inappropriate sexual conduct are protected from retaliation by both state and federal laws.
Many people mistakenly believe that conduct occurring outside of the office or outside of work hours is not covered under state or federal law. However, this is not true…
What Should I Do if I Have Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at your workplace or a work-sponsored event, contact our experienced sexual harassment attorneys to ensure that your interests are protected. Our attorneys will review the facts of your claim and advise you on the next steps to take, including reporting the incident to your employer. Once reported, your employer will rely on its legal counsel to represent its interests, including minimizing any potential liability.
Remember, we’re here to help you through this difficult time. If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed in the workplace, contact our experienced sexual harassment attorneys to discuss your rights.
James Swartz, our Managing and Principal Attorney at Swartz & Swartz P.C., is a nationally recognized and respected trial attorney as well as consumer advocate. His practice focuses on cases involving negligence, torts, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and other claims involving catastrophic injuries.
If you or someone you know, needs help from a lawyer, contact the law offices of Swartz & Swartz, use our live chat, or send us a message using the form below and we’ll get in touch to assess your case and how we can help.