On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

The intense media coverage of transgressions committed by high profile individuals, celebrities, and members of the clergy has spawned an increased awareness of sexual harassment. But predatory practices are not limited to the rich and famous. The most common sexual harassment claim is one that occurs in the workplace.

What should you do if experience sexual harassment in the workplace? Workplace harassment is a type of sex discrimination that violates federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Illegal workplace sexual harassment can happen between people of the same gender or different genders, it can happen between coworkers or an employee, and it can happen between a client or customer, or an employee and his or her supervisor. Harassment can occur in a variety of settings, including within the workplace but also at related events outside of work.
Understandably, you may have questions you want to ask before pursuing a sexual harassment claim, such as:

  • Was it even sexual harassment, as defined by the law?
  • How should I respond to the person harassing me?
  • Should I report the harassment to higher-ups?
  • Should I seek legal advice about the incident or incidents?
  • What can I do to protect myself against future harassment?
  • How can I prevent my employer from retaliating against me for making a report about the harassment conduct? (By the way, it’s illegal for your employer to retaliate.)

These are all questions that really can only be answered by an experienced employment lawyer.
Federal law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace as part of Title VII, which applies to most private and public employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and joint employer-union apprenticeship programs having more than 15 employees. Most states, including Rhode Island, have their own laws on the books that make sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination illegal.

Laws against sexual harassment are in place to protect you from harassment by your boss, supervisors, co-workers, and customers or clients. They apply to both men and women, and prohibit sexual harassment no matter what — whether it is directed at a person of the same sex or opposite sex.

If you have faced harassing conduct at work you may understandably feel powerless, especially if it involves a superior. You may think that if you speak up, you could lose your job. You may not want to cause waves at work and make anyone feel uncomfortable. Always remember, you have rights when it comes to sexual harassment claims. Those rights include protection of your job in a sexual harassment case. Everyone has the right to feel safe at work.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.