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Areas of Practice: Harassment

The most common and widely-recognized form of harassment in the workplace, of course, is sexual harassment. It involves offensive behavior which takes the form of unwelcome sexual advances; inappropriate sexual "jokes"; requests for sex or sexual favors; offensive touching and groping; constant ogling and/or leering; the display of inappropriate visual materials such as pornography or calendars, cartoons, or emails of a sexual nature; and sexually-suggestive remarks and inquiries. In order to be unlawful, the inappropriate conduct must rise to a high enough level so that it affects the terms and conditions of an individual's employment. In other words, isolated or infrequent incidents and generally rude or chauvinistic behavior do not legally constitute sexual harassment.

In addition, sexual harassment, or a "hostile work environment," can occur when an employer displays general hostility to the presence of a certain sex/gender in the workplace, but that hostility must be constant and severe.

It is also unlawful for an employer to condition certain benefits of employment (raises, promotions, continued employment, etc.) on sex or sexual favors.

The law also forbids harassment on the basis of disability, race, and other protected categories.

No matter the form that the harassment takes, it is important for those who experience it to complain about and/or report such behavior. Employers typically set out harassment reporting procedures in their employee handbooks and/or in their policies and procedures. The courts are generally unforgiving of and unsympathetic to employees who fail to give their employers notice of the harassment but later complain about it in a lawsuit. In certain cases, if the harassment was so common and explicit that management knew or should have known about it, the employer may be held responsible even if you did not formally complain. If your employer fails to address the harassment, or if it retaliates against you for complaining about it, it might be legally responsible for its conduct. A well-qualified employment attorney can help you understand these issues both in the midst of ongoing harassment and after.

Have you been harassed in the workplace? Contact us at LeGrant Law Firm, we can help!