Sexual harassment in the employment context takes many different forms. Men harass women and women harass men. Same-sex harassment has also been recognized by the courts. Harassing conduct can range from lewd comments, to sexual advances, to groping, to forced sexual acts. In some cases, harassment takes the form of "quid pro quo" demands for sex in exchange for favors. But, how often do you have a case where employees, both men and women, are sexually harassed by the several harassers?
How is sexual harassment defined?
The EEOC is the administrative agency responsible for enforcing federal laws making discrimination and retaliation in the workplace illegal. According to the regulations, sexual harassment is defined as follows:
"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general."
The EEOC's regulations make it clear that "[b]oth victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man. . . ." The fact that sexual harassment at the hands of women occurs so infrequently does not mean the consequences are any less devastating for the men who are the target of inappropriate sexual conduct by their female supervisors.
EEOC files lawsuit on behalf of call-center employees
The EEOC does not hesitate to intervene in workplace discrimination or other violations against employees. Recently, the agency filed a lawsuit against a Los Angeles call-center for sexual harassment and retaliation. The allegations are that numerous employees were shown pornographic images and groped. Supervisors subjected both male and female employees to sexually explicit comments about their bodies. One male employee alleges that a female supervisor tried to give him a lap dance. The male employees were harassed for not being masculine whenever they objected to the behavior. When these employees filed complaints about the pervasive harassment, they were either disciplined or terminated.
Why is this case different?
As the EEOC points out, this particular case is unique because the harassment affected both male and female employees. The harassers were both men and women and there were 6 women and 3 men claimed to be victims. This situation is a clear reminder that sexual harassment comes in many forms and impacts both male and female employees. Employees forced to endure workplace harassment should be able to report inappropriate behavior without fear of being retaliated against. Employees have the right to take legal action in situations like this.
If you feel you have been the victim of sexual harassment, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online calling us at (205) 265-1880.