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What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Sexual harassment in the workplace has exploded as major news stories in the past year or so. Many high-profile and powerful cases have made headlines and brought a renewed interest in protecting the rights of workers against this heinous problem.

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job. Sexual harassment in the workplace has also been governed by both federal and state laws that have been on the books for many years.

Sexual harassment can include unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature, inappropriate physical touching, or any action or activity that creates a potentially intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination as expressed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It holds employers and employees to a base standard of conduct across the United States. In addition, Massachusetts also has a series of laws and regulations on the books to strengthen protections for workers in the state.

There Are Two Types of Sexual Harassment at Work

Employers with more than 15 employers are governed federal statutes under Title VII. Employers with less than 15 employees are governed by state and local laws.

Under the law, there are two types of sexual harassment.

Quid pro quo occurs when a person in authority demands that a subordinate tolerate sexual harassment as a condition of getting a job, keeping their job, or attaining a job benefit such as a raise or promotion. A single instance of this type of behavior is enough to file a quid pro quo claim. However, when there is an ongoing pattern of sexual harassment, it may be enough to qualify as the other type of sexual harassment that involves unwanted sexual advances or sexual misconduct. Consistent sexual harassment by a coworker or superior can create a hostile environment. In cases such as these, it is also crucial to retain an attorney to protect your rights.

Holding an Employer Liable for Damages

Regardless of the size of the employer, they may be liable for compensatory damages such as for lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages which are penalties assessed against the employer to discourage future similar situations.

Davis & Davis, P.C. serves clients in Boston and other surrounding Massachusetts communities.

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