Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and is a serious impediment to a functional work environment. Sexual harassment can affect anyone (regardless of gender) and be instigated by anyone. Anyone affected by the offensive conduct—not
just the person to whom the conduct is directed to—can be a victim as well.
In the age of the #MeToo movement, companies may now find it advantageous to review their anti-harassment policies. Requiring all employees to complete anti-harassment training can educate employees on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to best stop it.
What Constitutes as Harassment?
Two types of sexual harassment outlined Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are quid pro quo (“This for that”) and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid pro quo involves demanding sexual favors in exchange for a benefit or to avoid punishment in the work place. An example of this would be a supervisor demanding a kiss from a subordinate in exchange for a promotion.
A hostile work environment is defined as speech or conduct so severe or persistent that it creates an intimidating or demeaning work environment. An example of this would be an employee repeatedly making sexual jokes or displaying inappropriate pictures to other coworkers.
Is Anti-Harassment Training Required by Law?
Although federal law does not have specific anti-harassment training requirements, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages educating a workforce on harassment basics and company policies to reduce occurrences of sexual harassment and ensure that employees understand how to best prevent sexual harassment.
Illinois state law requires that state government agencies and lobbyists complete annual mandatory sexual harassment training; in addition, House Bill 3351 was recently proposed in order to require all restaurant and hospitality workers to complete sexual harassment training.
What does Sexual Harassment Look Like?
Sexual harassment can occur under a variety of circumstances and does not necessarily have to include physical contact. The harasser could be a direct manager, indirect supervisor, or coworker. Some forms of sexual harassment include:
Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors, either explicitly or implicitly
Physical acts of sexual assault
Requests for sexual favors
Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation
Unwanted touching or physical contact
Unwelcome sexual advances
Discussing sexual relations/stories/fantasies at work or in other inappropriate places
Feeling pressured to engage with someone sexually
Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts on oneself
Unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Been Sexually Harassed?
If you have experienced sexual harassment of any form in the workplace, The Wood Law Office can help provide further guidance for your harassment claim. For more information or to discuss the details of your claim, contact us today to schedule a consultation.