Every employee has the right to work in a safe environment. Anyone experiencing sexual harassment on the job is not working in a safe environment.
Sexual harassment is against the law. It is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, our experienced sexual harassment lawyers are here to help.
Attorneys Leto Copeley and Valerie Johnson (aka the “Law Sisters“) even have a podcast about Sexual Harassment in the workplace. Learn ways you can protect yourself from Sexual Harassment by listening to their podcast series, Sex at Work, available on the Law Sisters website, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, and Stitcher.
Topics from previous podcast episodes include:
What employers are covered by sexual harassment laws?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is a federal law that applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Title VII also applies to federal, state, and local governments, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
North Carolina law is more limited but protects individuals from discrimination based on their “biological sex.” North Carolina law may also protect people who are fired in retaliation for refusing an employer’s sexual advances.
Types of workplace conduct that can be sexual harassment:
- Verbal – verbal conduct includes jokes, comments or slurs, or repeated requests for dates or sexual favors which are unwelcome.
- Nonverbal – nonverbal conduct includes lewd gestures, staring, or leering.
- Physical conduct – physical conduct is conduct that is sexual in nature and unwelcome, such as fondling, unwanted advances and touching, including patting, pinching, groping, or other unwelcome physical interaction.
- Visuals – any content that is sexual in nature and unwelcome, such as posters or signs, letters, poems, graffiti, faxes, cartoons or drawings, pictures, calendars, electronic mail, and computer programs.
Who can be a perpetrator and/or victim of sexual harassment?
You can find the answers to these and other questions and other helpful facts about sexual harassment here.
Some of the facts about sexual harassment are:
- Sexual harassment can happen from male to female, female to male, or between members of the same sex.
- Sexual harassment can occur by a supervisor, manager, or business owner. It can also be a peer or subordinate.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
What do I do if someone sexually harasses me?
It is very important that you do the following if you are sexually harassed:
- Tell the person their conduct is not welcome unless you feel that doing so will jeopardize your job or safety; make clear what behavior you object to and tell the person it must stop the behavior.
- Tell someone in a position of authority, such as a supervisor, manager, or human resources person – that the conduct is happening.
- Use your employer’s internal complaint or sexual harassment procedures to report any misconduct.
- DOCUMENT the harassment and your efforts to report it.
- Keep a journal of conduct include when it happened (time and date), where it occurred, and any potential witnesses
- Keep copies of any offensive messages, emails, or photographs
- Keep records of your performance evaluations before and during the harassment
- Talk to trusted friends, family members and colleagues about the harassment – this will help you to process what is going on and may be important evidence down the road
When does unwelcome sexual harassment violate the law?
If you or a co-worker is experiencing any of the workplace conduct described above, you should contact our experienced workplace harassment lawyers right away.
The law says that this workplace conduct is illegal if:
- Your employer makes an employment decision such as hiring you, firing you, or how to treat you based on your response to sexual harassment, or makes acceptance of the sexual advances a condition of your employment; or
- The sexual conduct is so severe or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
It can be difficult to make the determination as to whether the workplace conduct falls into one of these categories. You should contact our experienced employment harassment lawyers to discuss the specific conduct and whether the perpetrator’s conduct and the employer’s response violates the law.
Can my employer fire me or retaliate against me for reporting sexual harassment?
Firing an employee for reporting sexual harassment is illegal. If an employer fires you or retaliates against you by paying you less money or putting you in a less favorable position when you report sexual harassment, that is also discrimination and against the law.
It is illegal for an employer to punish a victim who has reported sexual harassment by:
- Ignoring the complaint
- Giving a negative performance review
- Gossiping about him or her
- Giving him or her less desirable work assignments
- Sabotage of tools/materials
Cases our experienced sexual harassment lawyers have handled
- An office assistant who was retaliated against and fired after complaining about improper touching and sexual comments by her supervisor, in McLean v. Patten Communities Incorporated (2003)
- An account manager for a landscaping company who was sexually assaulted while working alone in the office
- An employer that allowed workers to whistle at female employees and make comments about their bodies
- A bookkeeper in a manufacturing plant who was sexually assaulted by a floor manager
- An office worker for a construction company whose manager repeatedly propositioned her and exposed himself to her
- A pharmaceutical company employee whose supervisor pressured her to go out after work, sent her improper text messages, and ultimately raped her
Our lawyers are here to help
If you or one of your coworkers is experiencing sexual harassment, our employment lawyers are here to help. In addition to providing support to you during this difficult time, we can assist you with navigating the legal system.
If there has been a sexual assault or rape, we can help you contact law enforcement authorities. We can also assist you in making a Title VII complaint and filing a lawsuit if necessary. There are deadlines that apply, so please contact us as soon as possible.
It can be difficult to speak up if you have been a victim of sexual harassment.
Our sexual harassment lawyers understand and have helped other victims of sexual harassment report the unlawful conduct against them and hold the perpetrator and the employer responsible.