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Understanding sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment truly has no place in a workplace, yet it exists and affects people every day. It doesn't just affect women; sexual harassment affects men and women alike. It can be caused by customers, coworkers, bosses, supervisors or others.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) defined this kind of harassment to make sure there is no confusion over what constitutes a crime. It is defined as any unwelcome advances or conduct perceived as sexual in nature that ends up interfering with a person's job. Sexual harassment can be a one-off event or something that happens time and time again. The overriding issue is that it causes a hostile, offensive environment, which is unwelcome in the workplace.

State and federal laws protect people against sexual harassment. It's considered a type of sex discrimination under federal law. Two types exist including quid pro quo and hostile work environment. With quid pro quo, the harassment is a means of control that makes subordinates accept and tolerate harassment in order to advance in a job or benefit in some way. With a hostile work environment claim, anyone can be the person harassing others, not just a supervisor. Courts look at the frequency of conduct and form of conduct, for instance, to determine if the action created a hostile work environment.

Employers who have 15 or more employees are subject to Title VII, which protects people against sexual harassment in the workplace. State laws govern organizations with 15 or fewer workers. Remember, you do have protections and can speak out about harassment in the workplace.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment at Work," accessed May 24, 2018

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