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What You Need to Know About Sexual Harassment in the Texas Workplace

Wherever you work in Texas, you should be able to recognise sexual harassment when it happens to you or someone else and you need to know how to put an end to it. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 6,822 sexual harassment charges in the workplace were filed in 2015. As expected, majority of those charges were filed by women but interestingly, a sizeable chunk of 17.1% of the charges were filed by men.

Sexual harassment may sound like a term from Pluto, especially if it has not happened to you or someone you know, but it is important that you know exactly what it entails and how to deal with it should the problem arise.

What is sexual harassment?

Both federal and Texas law require that an employer with at least 15 employees safeguard their employees from gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, but what exactly does sexual harassment entail?

The EOCC makes it clear that it is unlawful to harass an employee or an applicant because of their sex. Various scenarios may come under the definition of sexual harassment, including physical or verbal harassment of a physical nature, requests for sexual favours, or unwanted sexual advances. Even scenarios that are not sexual in nature may fall under the sexual harassment banner, and may include offensive statements about an individual’s sex, for instance, general derogatory remarks about women.

While you might imagine that sexual harassment would usually involve a male harasser and a female victim, it is possible for the harasser or victim to be of either sex or of the same sex. The law does not say isolated incidents, offhand comments, or simple teasing are illegal, but harassment becomes unlawful when it is so severe or frequent that it leads to an unfavourable employment decision like a demotion or a dismissal, or breeds an offensive or hostile work environment. The harasser could be the employee of the organisation, such as a co-worker or supervisor, or they could be a non-employee, such as a customer or a client.

Types of sexual harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlines two forms of sexual harassment, the first being quid pro quo sexual harassment, which is the case when an employee is required to fulfil a supervisor’s advances in order to enjoy certain employment benefits or as a prerequisite for employment.

The second is called hostile work environment sexual harassment and is the case when remarks or behaviour of a sexual nature are unwanted and are so serious that they are capable of fostering an abusive or hostile work environment.

How to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace

Your response to sexual harassment at work will depend on the specific circumstances. It is not always possible for the employer to handle the situation for whatever reason, and when this is the case, the best course of action is for the employee to go to a law firm such as Leger Ketchum & Cohoon, PLLC, that is experienced with such cases.

Before contacting an attorney, the first step would be to verbally or non-verbally indicate offense or disapproval and this might be enough to put an end to the inappropriate conduct. If the offender refuses to stop, the next step would be to report the case following the organisation’s procedure. Not following the company’s procedure may lead to a failed lawsuit, and where there is no policy on sexual harassment, the report should be made to a higher-level supervisor or to human resources.

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