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Know Your Rights at Work: What Type of Misbehavior Comes Under Sexual Harassment?

Most people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, so it needs to be a comfortable atmosphere for everyone in which to exist. Unfortunately, the conduct of some co-workers or supervisors can make working with them difficult, especially if someone is being subjected to sexual harassment. It is important to recognize what sexual harassment is and what you’re entitled to do about it under the law.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment occurs when co-workers or employers make unwelcome comments, requests for favors, behave or make physical contact with someone of a sexual nature. If this happens to you at work, Charlotte, NC employment lawyers can explain what your options are under the law. However, it’s important to note under state sexual harassment law, they do not account for things which are considered merely offensive to someone.

There are both state and federal laws covering sexual harassment in the workplace. Both laws make sexual harassment illegal, with the federal law allowing victims to sue employers or colleagues committing these acts in federal court. The state law covering it also calls for government employers to have a plan in place to prevent acts of illegal workplace harassment.

Under the law, sexual harassment includes:

  • Someone feeling pressured to submit to sexual advances to keep their job.
  • Being denied promotions or benefits for not submitting to sexual advances.
  • The environment creates a hostile workplace, an employee feels intimidated or it interferes with an employee’s job performance.

To clarify, these are some of the actions which could be deemed sexual harassment under both federal and state laws:

  • Continuing to ask out a co-worker, even after being denied and told to stop.
  • Making inappropriate compliments, such as making remarks about someone’s breasts and/or continuing to pay someone compliments after being told to stop.
  • Creating a hostile atmosphere by hanging up pictures others consider lewd, such as a calendar with nude men or women, making jokes of a sexual nature or holding work functions in sexualized places like a strip club.
  • Touching someone against their will in a sexual manner. This includes actions like patting someone’s behind, sexual assault or rape.
  • Making sounds or gestures of a sexual nature, especially if they are aimed at a co-worker or being purposely done to offend a co-worker.
  • Stalking someone at work, repeatedly calling their home or waiting on them after work especially after being told to stop.
  • Using a sexual slur about someone with whom they work.

Although the majority of sexual harassment victims are women, men can also sue co-workers or employers for sexual harassment.

What can be Done?

Since these actions are unlawful, victims should report the behavior to their company’s Human Resources or to another manager. If the accusations are not investigated or no actions are taken to stop the accused from continuing the harassment, then the victim can sue their co-worker or employer. If you’re being sexually harassed at work, you have the right to report it and, if it continues, to sue them in court.

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