Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights?

August 17, 2016
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

After the recent lawsuit filed by former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson, it should be clear to everyone that sexual harassment in the workplace is alive and well.  All too often employees remain silent about the sexual harassment they experience in the workplace for fear of retribution.  This silence, however, only further emboldens the perpetrators.  This article details the rights of every employee, both male and female, to a sexual harassment free work environment and briefly discusses the remedies available for victims of sexual harassment.  If you or a loved one is experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, contact us now for a free confidential consultation.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Sexual harassment comes in two main types: (1) quid pro quo; and (2) hostile work environment.   Quid pro quo sexual harassment typically involves a supervisor requesting sexual favors from an employee in exchange for advancement within the company.  The hostile work environment form of sexual harassment typically involves an employer creating or condoning an atmosphere that is infused with sexually charged rancor or lewdness. Both types of sexual harassment are illegal when the behavior is either so severe or so pervasive as to alter the terms and conditions of employment.  Furthermore, despite common belief, sexual harassment of men is actionable, and it certainly occurs in today’s workplace.

To bring a claim for sexual harassment, Title VII and the Maryland Civil Rights Act generally require the employee to bring a claim against the employer.  Under the law, an employer is generally vicariously liable for the sexual harassment created by a supervisory employee, such as a manager. Indeed, if the supervisory employee committing the acts of sexual harassment took tangible employment action against the victim, such as demoting or firing the victim, courts have found strict liability on the part of the employer, especially if the employer did not have a mechanism in place to receive or handle complaints of sexual harassment.

Although many employees are reluctant to complain of sexual harassment to their employer, the law provides protection to those employees.  If an employee experiences retaliation, the law provides that they can bring an action against their employer for the retaliatory conduct. The primary focus for retaliation claims is whether the actions inflicted on the complainant would tend to dissuade someone else from coming forward with a complaint of sexual harassment.

Victims of sexual harassment are entitled to a variety of remedies, including back pay for actual wage loss and the value of lost benefits, front pay for future wage loss as a result of the discriminatory acts, and compensatory damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of dignity.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is serious and is not something that you can resolve or deal with on your own.  If you or a loved one believes that they are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, contact us today to schedule a consultation.  Let us put our experience to work for you contact us today.