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Understanding Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Laws

 Posted on October 31, 2018 in Workplace Sexual Harassment

Pittsburgh sexual harassment lawyersEvery employee deserves to feel safe at work and to be paid fairly for their efforts.  Employees have certain rights, called workplace rights, which are guaranteed by law. Title VII of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it officially illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex or national origin." The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 reinforced workplace rights and added further protections for women and minorities. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination protected against by both federal and state law. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a problem in the United States.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment Creates a Threatening Work Atmosphere

According to the law, there are two types of sexual harassment. Hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environment harassment involves behaviors and remarks which create an abusive or hostile work environment. The law specifies that the offensive behavior or remarks have to be “severe and pervasive” enough to interfere with the affected employee’s ability to do his or her job. Isolated incidents or trivial offensive behaviors may not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment.

When Does Awkward Behavior Cross the Line into Harassment?

Actions which may be considered harassing behavior include but are not limited to:

  • Displaying sexual photographs, pornography, or other offensive sexual material in the workplace;
  • Making jokes or comments about an employee’s body or his or her sexuality;
  • Name-calling, insults, and mockery;
  • Unwanted touching, including hugging and shoulder rubs;
  • Threatening or intimidating an employee;
  • Physically assaulting an employee; and
  • Repeatedly asking an employee on a date or for or sexual favors.

Again, these behaviors must be either severe or unrelenting in order to meet the criteria of illegal sexual harassment. Consider this example: an employee opens an email in view of other employees which contains graphic sexual images. The other employees are offended and make it clear that they do not wish to see such images at work. The offending employee apologizes and promises not to open personal emails at work again. This incident alone would not constitute sexual harassment. However, if the behavior escalated or the offending employee continued to expose his or her coworkers to sexual images, this may be considered harassment.

Have You Experienced Sexual Harassment at Work?

Contact the experienced and compassionate Pittsburgh employment discrimination attorneys at Colianni & Leonard LLC for help fighting back against sexual harassment. Call 412-680-7877 to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation today.



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