“It is a sobering revelation that every woman—every woman—who has spent time in the workforce in the last two decades can tell at least one story about being the object of sexual harassment.” So said conservative Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski after being faced with yet another claim of sexual harassment in the workforce. According to a Cornell Law Review, up to 90 percent of women in the United States workforce have been the victims of some form of sexual harassment on the job. More than fifty percent of sexual harassment victims do not report it, let alone seek out the best sexual harassment attorneys that they can find to help them.
As experienced attorneys in this area of law, we know that the impact of sexual harassment is clear and indisputable. A recent Cleveland State Law Review Article entitled “The Present State of Sexual Harassment Law” reported that 90 to 95 percent of sexually harassed women suffer from some form of debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction. Sexual harassment victims suffer financial loss on top of the emotional trauma: a study of federal employees reported that each year sexual harassment victims lose 973,000 hours in unpaid leave, amounting to $4.4 million in wages. Again, these are only the amounts for federal employees and does not include women sexually harassed by bosses in the private sector.
Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar Ohio employment laws. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. Sexual harassment at work can occur in a lot of different ways, but can generally be categorized as quid pro quo sexual harassment, sexually hostile work environment, and a combination of these two types.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning “this for that.” Within the context of sexual harassment claims, quid pro quo harassment occurs when your boss, supervisor, manager, or even the owner of the business offers to make a trade for sexual favors, including, for example, a raise for a blowjob; a promotion for sex; avoiding a demotion for a date; or providing more hours for emailing naked pictures. Want a shift change? That will cost a handjob. There does not necessarily need to be an overt request or express agreement. For example, if only the women that have engaged in sexual favors get raises, and the boss requests sexual favors, the quid pro quo agreement can be implied. If you are uncertain if you have been subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment, your best option is to ask a sexual harassment lawyer at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm.
Sexually Hostile Work Environment
Sexually hostile work environment harassment occurs when physical, verbal, or visual sexual harassment is so severe and/or pervasive (frequent) in the workplace that it interferes with the employee’s ability to work. It is extremely important to consult an experienced sexual harassment lawyer because the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have held that the determination of whether there is a sexually hostile work environment will depend on the frequency and severity of the conduct, including whether the offensive conduct is physically threatening or humiliating and/or the extent, if any, that such conduct interferes with the employee’s job performance.
While the questions of severe and pervasive are typically questions that must be resolved on a case by case basis, there are some general guidelines. Unless the conduct is extremely severe, a single act of inappropriate behavior is not likely to be held as a sexual harassment hostile work environment by Ohio courts. A single unwanted invitation to a date or onetime display of a naked picture will not likely create a hostile work environment. But, a number of relatively minor incidents – regardless of whether they are the same conduct – may amount to sexual harassment. These may include: comments and remarks of a sexual nature; comments or jokes that address the employee’s physical appearance and/or genitalia; inappropriately touching, especially in a sexually provocative manner; requests, comments or jokes to an employee about having sexual interaction with a coworker; displaying, posting, or electronically sending sexually graphic pictures and/or drawings, whether personal, downloaded or commercially printed images (naked magazine pinups or calendars); displaying, posting, or electronically sending sexually explicit literature, including a graphic description of personal sexual encounters or a fictional sexual story or a joke; and/or playing sexually explicit music, particularly when combined with sexually suggestive dancing.
On the other hand, if the conduct is sufficiently severe, such as a rape or attempted rape, it will probably be held by an Ohio court to constitute sexual harassment. Sexual harassment hostile work environment claims do not require a loss or threat of loss of your job, demotion, adverse action, or the promise of benefits.
Combined Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment And Sexually Hostile Work Environment
There is often an overlap between quid pro quo sexual harassment and sexual harassment hostile work environment. For example, our sexual harassment attorneys have seen several cases where a manager has promised a benefit (promotion, raise, better shift) in exchange for naked pictures of a subordinate, but then emails or posts the pictures of the harassment victim so that other employees can see it. Regardless of whether the promised benefit is actually given, this conduct raises claims for both quid pro quo sexual harassment and sexual harassment hostile work environment.
Because sexual harassment comes in a variety of forms, your best option is to get a free consultation from a qualified employment law attorney regarding the specifics of your sexual harassment case. And, you should definitely call Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, if you find yourself saying or searching for:
- I was sexually harassed at work by my manager. Can I sue?
- My boss told me that I have to have sex with him to save my job.
- I was fired after I refused to have sex with my boss.
- My supervisor pulled me into a room and forced me to give him a blow job in order to avoid getting fired.
- My manager keeps rubbing his crotch up against me when he walks past me.
- I reported a coworker to the human resources representative for sending me naked pictures but my company won’t do anything about it.
- The owner of the company sent me pictures of his penis and other naked photographs.
- I was fired after reporting to HR that my boss was sexually harassing me.
- Someone keeps leaving dildos and other sex toys on my desk, and HR will not investigate my complaints of sexual harassment.
- My manager made me go to a strip club with him and clients and get a lap dance.
- My boss got drunk at a company party, grabbed my breasts and rubbed his penis against my leg.
- My job has naked pictures posted around the office.
- My regional manager keeps slapping my ass every time he sees me.
- My boss calls me into his office and makes me flash him my boobs.
- I’m not sure how to get my manager to stop sexting me.
- My supervisor follows me into the supply closet and keeps trying to kiss me.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Harassment
At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, we believe all deserve a fair, equal and safe workplace. Here are some of our most commonly seen questions throughout this issue: