One of my favorite shows on TV is AMC’s Mad Men. It is brilliant in every way. One element of the show, however, is shocking to those of us born of a more recent generation and that is the frequency and severity of the sexual harassment to which the women are subjected. Obviously, we have come a long way in this area and no one would recognize the type of office that mad men depicts. We have not, however, resolved the problem of sexual harassment at work. There is a reason that all major companies require employees to participate in “workplace sensitivity” and other human resource trainings to prevent sexual harassment.
It does still happen, and more often then we may think. A great deal of sexual harassment cases are never discussed because the victim is afraid to come forward for fear that she will not be believed or that she may be fired, etc.
Both State and Federal law prohibits sexual harassment. Unlawful sexual harassment is often defined as: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, under any of the following conditions: (a) submission to the sexual conduct is made a condition of employment, either expressly or impliedly, (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions (i.e. loss of a job promotion opportunity) affecting that individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or (d) creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
There are numerous examples of sexual harassment, including but not limited to: unwelcome sexual propositions; unwelcome touching such as hugs, kisses or other physical contact; lewd gestures or remarks; unwelcome discussions of sexual acts, physical anatomy or sexual practices; unwelcome showing of sexual pictures, drawings, movies, jokes, etc; comments or discussion about one’s physical appearance.
An employer has an obligation to protect its employees from this type of offensive environment and may be liable for damages should you experience this type of sexual harassment. If you feel that you are being harassed in your workplace, make an effort to collect evidence in your support as it will greatly assist your potential lawsuit. Evidence such as emails, text or phone messages, pictures, etc. can go along way towards establishing your case for sexual harassment. Even if there is only your word, but you feel that you have been sexually harassed at work, it is imperative that you contact an attorney. My office has helped victims of workplace harassment and will speak to you for a free consultation. Remember, that the law also prevents employers from retaliating against employees who complain about sexual harassment. Do not be a silent victim. You have the right to a safe, comfortable and enjoyable workplace.