Our nation just had its first female presidential nominee of a major party go toe-to-toe with her opponent. Despite this and other seeming advancements in workplace environments for employees across genders, sexual harassment remains a major problem. A recent Huffington Post article on Secretary of State Clinton noted she may have been the most sexually harassed woman in the country during the heated presidential election campaign season.
A Serious Problem
One out of every four women in the U.S. is directly affected by this, according to recent testimony by Fatima Gross Graves, the Vice President for Education and Employment for the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Graves spoke before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on the topic of prevention, stating that women in both low paying jobs and high paying predominantly-male fields are the most common victims. Many women, according to testimony and studies on the topic, are unlikely to report these experiences due to fear of retaliation including further harassment, loss of employment, or risk of physical safety. Women make up nearly half of the entire nation’s workforce and research shows that as much as 41% of women are the primary breadwinners in homes with minor children. The EEOC notes that 82% of sexual harassment charges brought before the agency are initiated by women.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects individuals from sex discrimination in the workplace, among several other types of discrimination. Sexual harassment can be tricky because it may come in a variety of forms including:
- Unwanted sexual advances,
- Requests for sexual favors, and/or
- Other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
Sexual harassment occurs when the act:
- Ties into the individual’s employment status, explicitly or implicitly;
- Unreasonably interferes with the victim’s work performance; or
- Creates a work environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
Beyond initial sexual harassment, Title VII also prohibits an employer to retaliate against an individual for opposing unlawful employment practices such as sexual harassment. Retaliation by an employer is also expressly prohibited as a result of an employee filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC or for participating in any way with an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under this Title VII.
There are other laws in place that protect individuals from gender-based workplace discrimination. One is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which falls under Title VII. The PDA bans employers from discriminating against women due to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions. Additionally, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) prohibits pay discrimination because of an employee’s gender. The EPA is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Sexual Harassment Attorney
No one should be subjected to a hostile work environment as a result of sexual harassment. If you or someone you know believes he or she has been the victim of workplace harassment, contact a seasoned sexual harassment attorney to explain your rights under the law. Do not suffer in silence.