From serving in the military to working in an office environment, sexual harassment at work is unfortunately all too common. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Women for Action and Research, 54% of survey respondents experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment. 21% of the respondents harassed were male as well, highlighting the fact that sexual harassment occurs across the board.
The alarming prevalence of sexual harassment highlights the need for more information and awareness discussing precisely what behaviors constitute sexual harassment. From a legal perspective, here are the facts to know about what constitutes sexual harassment in Arizona.
Defining Sexual Harassment
All employees are legally entitled to be protected from working in a hostile work environment. These protections are given at both the federal and state level, and sexual harassment is an included protection within hostile work environment law.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as harassment because of a person’s sex. To help clarify what constitutes sexual harassment, the EEOC notes that sexual harassment may include:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Other verbal/physical conduct that may be perceived as sexual in nature
It is worth noting that sexual harassment does not need to be sexual in nature for sexual harassment to occur. In fact, an individual who makes offensive remarks about a person’s sex is also committing sexual harassment. Making offensive comments about women, generally, is sexual harassment within a workplace environment.
Merely making lewd or inappropriate comments alone, however, does not necessarily rise to the level of sexual harassment. Teasing or isolated incidents may not be enough to prove sexual harassment has occurred. Rather, for a charge of sexual harassment to succeed, it must be shown that the unwanted sexual behavior or comments either explicitly or implicitly:
- Unreasonably interfere with the individual’s work performance
- Affect the individual’s employment
- Creates an offensive, intimidating or otherwise hostile work environment
Legal Options When Sexual Harassment Occurs
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that any claims that fit the federal scope of sexual harassment may be enforced by the EEOC. Common causes of sexual harassment that will warrant a lawsuit include, but are not limited to:
- Inappropriate touching
- Sexual bullying
- Sexual advances
- Sexual confiding in a verbal manner
- Making consistently pervasive comments about an employee’s sex
If a harasser in the workplace behaves in such a way, sexual harassment victims are advised to inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and should cease. Additionally, the harassment victim ought to use any and all mechanisms for issuing an employer/employee complaint and pursuing available internal company remedies for the harassment.
If the harassment is threatening, talk to an Arizona employment lawyer immediately. Your lawyer will help you determine if you have a strong case based on federal and Arizona law. If you do, a lawsuit will be filed against the party or parties who are responsible for the sexual harassment.
For sexual harassment lawsuits to succeed, evidence will need to be provided that shows evidence supports the sexual harassment claim. If it does, the defendant will then need to prove that the evidence presented does not justify a sexual harassment finding. These cases often hinge on whether the reasonable conduct standard is met, which is a legal test to determine whether a reasonable person would find the behaviors in question to constitute sexual harassment.
For these reasons, speak openly and honestly to your lawyer about every fact of the case. Presenting the evidence in the strongest light will give you the greatest chance of a successful sexual harassment claim.
If you have questions about whether certain behaviors you experienced rise to the level of sexual harassment, talk to an Arizona employment lawyer who pursues justice for sexual harassment victims.
Contact Tyler Allen Law, PLLC for a legal consultation to discuss the facts of your case.