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Sexual harassment in the workplace explained

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their sex, and employers are protected from sexual harassment. This behavior might include unwelcome sexual requests, sexual advances, and sexually physical or verbal conduct that affects the work performance and employment of the harassed person. This act applies to employers who have 15 or more people on staff, and Florida workers should know that local, state and federal government employers are included.

There are several instances in which sexual harassment could occur. The harasser might be a man or a woman, and they could be harassing an employee of the same or opposite gender. While the harasser may be a colleague, supervisor or the employer, they might also be a non-employee. The harasser's offensive conduct could affect other people who are not directly being harassed as well.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reviews the entire record of a sexual harassment complaint when it launches an investigation. This includes an assessment of the circumstances and environment in which the incidents happened. When an employee is being sexually harassed, it is beneficial to make it clear to the harasser that the behavior is unwelcome. The victim must also file a claim via any grievance or complaint system available through an employer. Employees who file a claim are protected from employer retaliation.

An employee who has been subjected to sexual harassment and has exhausted his or her administrative avenues for stopping the behavior may be able to file a claim in court. By taking a claim before a judge, a victim of sexual harassment could pursue compensation for damages associated with the incidents.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Sexual Harassment", September 15, 2014

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