Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment in the work place was made illegal by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct that is “severe” and “pervasive” to the point that it affects the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment. Importantly, the harasser can even be a non-employee. This means employers need to be conscious of the actions of their vendors and independent contractors, because they can be held liable for third party harassment.

Also, even if the harassment is not sexual in nature, it can be actionable. Harassment based on gender is outlawed. This means that destroying a worker’s tools, lockers, or making comments about someone’s ability to do a job because of their status as a male or female can create liability for an employer.

What can employers do?

Employers should act whenever they learn that an employee, manager, or vendor is harassing or discriminating against another employee. They should investigate and take immediate action, up and including, if necessary, firing the offender.

What conduct should employers avoid?

Employers should be careful not to retaliate against an employee who complains of harassment. The Supreme Court has ruled that actions considered “materially adverse” are retaliatory. The Court has defined “materially adverse” as: job decisions that are harmful enough to deter a reasonable worker from complaining of harassment or discrimination.

For instance, if a worker is given less desirable work duties or shifts, that could be enough to entail retaliation. The worker does not have to be fired or have their pay cut.