Welcome to our free Sexual Harassment Awareness tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Sexual Harassment Awareness for Employees and Managers course.
Federal and State laws exist to protect employees against sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in the workplace. This lesson provides the legal definitions and explanation of harassment. Sexual harassment can include a variety of circumstances, and this lesson covers many of these unwelcome behaviors.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm states the following:
"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."
Many different people can be affected by sexual harassment. Note the following groups that can be affected by sexual harassment:
The common scenario is that the harasser is the victim's supervisor, but that is not the only possible scenario. The harasser can also be:
The most important deciding factor of harassment is that the behavior must be unwelcome.
There are two main categories of sexual harassment:
Quid pro quo translates to "this for that." The harasser wants sexual favors in return for the victim keeping a job, or other career related benefit.
In this category, typically the harasser is the victim's supervisor or someone in a position of power. The victim is forced to tolerate sexual harassment for fear of losing a job, or in order to obtain a raise or promotion. This can be a single occurrence if it is severe or a repeated behavior, no matter how minor.
A hostile work environment can be defined by many possible scenarios. Generally, a hostile work environment is when harassment behavior interferes with employee work performance or creates an abusive or offensive atmosphere.
In this category, there is typically a repeated behavior that may start off small and harmless but builds to an intolerable situation. A behavior can be severe enough to create a hostile work environment after only a single occurrence.
The harasser can be:
The harassment can be:
In this exercise, you will demonstrate your understanding of harassment laws.
Answer the following questions.
Falsely accusing someone of sexual harassment or creating a hostile workplace can have serious negative consequences on the following:
The increased ease of use of technology such as instant messaging, email, and social networking sites has had an impact on the spread of false accusations and information in the workplace. When the false information results in injuring the reputation of someone's character or a company's reputation, it is considered to be a form of defamation, which is regulated by law.
Everyone has the right to the protection of his or her good name. When someone attacks the reputation of another person by falsely accusing that person, causing injury, the accused person has the right to file a lawsuit against the person who attacked him or her.
There are several criteria that must be met in order for the lawsuit to stand in court. These criteria may vary by state, but in general, the accused must prove:
In certain circumstances, privilege applies, protecting the person making certain defamatory statements from any liability. Some examples of circumstances where privilege applies are:
If an employee is treated unfairly by other employees based on color, gender, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, or sexual orientation, the victim may file a workplace discrimination lawsuit if that treatment causes the victim to be discriminated against by other employees.
Former employers are protected from defamation lawsuits as long as the information provided to prospective employers is accurate. The prospective employee cannot sue the former employer if he or she does not get the job based on truthful statements made by the former employer, but if the former employer makes statements during the background check that are false and the employee is not hired or is terminated from current employment, a lawsuit can be filed.
In this exercise, you will demonstrate your understanding of laws protecting victims from false accusations. Answer the following questions.
Other forms of harassment are defined as employment discrimination that violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/practices/harassment.cfm states: "Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information."
Quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment exist in these forms as well, and just like sexual harassment, both are unlawful.
Offensive actions can include:
These types of items are indirect harassment and typically offenders will quickly remove the item or stop the behavior if told that it is offending others. Most people who are guilty of this type of harassment do not want to intentionally offend anyone.
Other offensive actions include:
These behavior are intentional and target an individual or group. Again, the targeted victim or victims are not the only ones affected in this situation. Individuals in the work area who are offended by the behavior can be just as affected as the direct victim.
Threats and physical assault are the most obvious harassment behavior. These actions are definitely intentional with a direct targeted victim or victims. This behavior is severe and needs to be reported immediately, even if there is only one occurrence.
Many different people can be affected by other forms of harassment, just as with sexual harassment. The victim can be anyone affected by harassment, not only the person being targeted by the harasser.
The harasser can be:
Not all offensive conduct is necessarily illegal. Minor or isolated incidents may not require legal action. A conversation telling the person to stop their behavior may be all that is needed.
As you can see, other forms of harassment are very similar to sexual harassment. Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a harasser. The rule is any unwanted behavior, whether received by a targeted individual or bystander, can be harassment.
In this exercise, you will demonstrate your understanding of other forms of harassment.
Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on:
Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, although employees working for smaller companies are usually protected by state antidiscrimination laws similar to Title VII.
Most states have harassment laws in addition to the federal laws. Federal law takes precedence unless the state's law offers more protection to the employees.
Federal law keeps employees safe, but some states wanted to enforce stronger laws and put stronger harassment laws in place. Those states are: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In this exercise, you will demonstrate your knowledge of federal and state harassment laws.
Answer the following questions:
Harassment laws were created for the protection of the employee. Sexual harassment, including physical and psychological abuse, and other forms of harassment can have devastating effects on individuals as well as on companies with the following as possible outcomes: