Are you one of the many Texans who experience the destructive realities of sexual harassment or other workplace harassment? Most employees suffer in silence and experience strained relations with supervisors, co-workers, friends and loved ones. The first step to stopping the pain is learning what constitutes illegal harassment.
Understanding Workplace Harassment
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is defined to include:
- Unwelcome verbal conduct such as derogatory jokes, epithets, sexual advances or invitations, and other comments;
- Unwelcome visual conduct such as derogatory and/or sexually-oriented posters, photographs, e-mails, cartoons, and drawings;
- Unwelcome physical conduct such as sexual assault, unwanted touching, groping, or massages, simulated sex acts, blocking normal body movement and interfering with work because of sex, race or any other protected basis; and
- Threats and demands to submit to sexual requests as a condition of continued employment, or to avoid some other loss, and offers of employment benefits in return for sexual favors.
Generally, federal and Texas law only protect employees against severe or pervasive harassment in the workplace. This means that, while a workplace sexual assault most likely will constitute sexual harassment, a single offensive comment, isolated touching, or rejected advance--without more--is rarely enough to qualify as unlawful harassment.
Moreover, unlawful harassment must be because of an employee's sex, race, or other protected class status. The law does not protect employees from mean-spirited supervisors who create hostile work environments unless the harassment is based on an employee's sex, race, or other protected characteristic.
"Stop Now!": Reporting Workplace Harassment
Under federal and Texas anti-harassment law, employees who experience a hostile work environment are afforded few rights if they fail to report sexual harassment or other unlawful harassment. Therefore, the most important step in stopping sexual harassment is reporting it. This allows an employer to investigate and correct the situation, if possible. Harassment complaints should be made in writing and identify the employee's belief that the harassment is based on his/her sex or other protected characteristic. An employer's anti-harassment policy should identify to whom the employee should report the sexual harassment. If an employer does not have an anti-harassment policy, employees should report sexual harassment and other unlawful harassment to their supervisor, manager, Human Resources department, and even the company president. Reporting hostile work environment harassment is important because an employee's failure to file a complaint may later prevent him/her from recovering for unlawful harassment.
Retaliation Is Prohibited
Many employees fear reporting sexual harassment and other unlawful workplace harassment out of concern for retaliation. Sexual harassment law, however, prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who complains or reports conduct that the employee believes, in good faith, is sexual harassment or other unlawful harassment. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who participates in a sexual harassment or other investigation of unlawful workplace harassment. Even if an employee cannot recover on a claim of workplace harassment, the employee still may recover for retaliation.
How to Stop Unlawful Workplace Harassment
The most difficult decision any victim of sexual harassment has to make is the decision to no longer tolerate it. Dallas sexual harassment lawyer Barry Hersh can assist you through this often confusing process by helping you to formulate your complaint, assisting you with the investigation stages of your complaint and, if necessary, vindicating your right to be free from unlawful harassment through litigation. If you are experiencing sexual harassment or other unlawful workplace harassment, complete the law firm's online inquiry form.
- Tell the harasser that their conduct is unwelcome, illegal, and must immediately stop. Each time. Every time.
- Report the incident to your manager, Human Resource department, and the harasser's supervisor.
- Submit your complaint in writing. If your complaint was verbal, follow it up with an e-mail.
- Make sure that your complaint shows that the harassment is as a result of your sex or other protected class membership.
- Begin keeping a journal.
- Don't resign!
- If the harassment doesn't stop or you're dissatisfied with your employer's response, contact the EEOC and Texas Workforce Commission. Time permitting, seek legal advice from a Dallas employment lawyer before you file an administrative complaint with the EEOC or Texas labor board.