Any woman that has been the victim of sexual harassment at work understands that sexual harassment is not about sex – it’s about power. Putting a stop to this conduct is your number one priority, because until it stops, you cannot do your job. Luckily there are laws that help. Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) both prohibit sexual harassment.
The law recognizes two forms of sexual harassment – quid pro quo sexual harassment, and sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment. Both types are conceptually distinct, and each are analyzed differently from a legal perspective. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when (1) job benefits, including employment, promotion, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations and other conditions of employment, are made contingent on the provision of sexual favors, usually to an employer, supervisor or agent of the employer who has the authority to make decisions about employment actions, or (2) the rejection of a sexual advance or request for sexual favors results in a tangible employment detriment, a loss of a job benefit of the kind described above. The law with respect to this type of harassment is relatively straightforward. The company is held liable for the harasser’s actions.
The other type of sexual harassment is usually referred to as “hostile work environment” sexual harassment. With this type of sexual harassment, you can recover against the company only if certain circumstances are present. First, you must show that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive. To make this determination courts typically look at the level of the offensiveness of the conduct, the frequency or pervasiveness of the offensive encounters, the total length of time over which the encounters occurred, and the context in which the harassment occurred. You must also show that the conduct was subjectively and objectively hostile or abusive. You must also prove that the conduct was unwelcome, and that it was based on your sex. Once you prove all of these things, the employer can still escape liability if it can show that it had in place a mechanism for remedying sexual harassment, like a sexual harassment policy, and that you failed to seek redress through this mechanism. Or the company can escape liability by showing that it took prompt remedial action to redress the sexual harassment once the employee brought the conduct to the company’s attention.
In a nutshell, a sexual harassment lawsuit is complicated, and figuring out what to do about a sexual harassment situation is even more so. Take the first step toward regaining control over your career by contacting Amanda, who can help you find a way out.