Sexual harassment in the workplace is certainly not a new phenomenon. There are both federal and state statutes in place that protect victims of workplace harassment, and yet, sex discrimination and harassment still occur all over the country. The #MeToo movement of 2018 has brought increased attention to the issue. But Google’s reported response to recent sexual harassment allegations against a high-level official has led thousands of employees to protest.
Google Employees Stage a Walk Out in Protest
It was reported that the high-level executive who had been accused of sexual misconduct on the job had received a $90 million severance package after he was forced to resign. This news angered thousands of Google employees across the country who staged a walkout on November 1, 2018. Instead of being held responsible and appropriately punished for their sexual misconduct in the workplace, it has been reported that at least three executives are being protected by the company in an effort to “silence and downplay abuses of power.”
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment claims are typically based on unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Yet, there are many cases out there where, despite the existence of these things, the court found there was no actionable harassment. In order for harassment to be actionable, it must be shown that it was “sufficiently severe or pervasive.” The question of what constitutes sufficient severity is often raised. More importantly, what are the recognized damaging effects of sexual harassment of employees?
Understanding How the EEOC Defines Sexual Harassment
According to the EEOC, which is the administrative body responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate or retaliate against someone in the workplace, 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 Damaging Effects of Sexual Harassment
A select task force on the Study of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace uncovered numerous studies that found sexually harassed women typically experience depression, general stress and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generally impaired psychological well-being. According to one EEOC Regional Attorney, "[w]omen have every right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment and sexual advances. Sexual harassment is degrading and inexcusable.”
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in
the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment
rights, please contact the experienced
Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!