The United States Department of Labor has guidelines explaining what constitutes workplace harassment in their offices, and this includes sexual harassment. Indiana employees of the Department of Labor are protected by these guidelines, but the federal laws on these matters apply to a broad spectrum of employers around the country.
Federal law recognizes two types of harassment. One is quid pro quo harassment, and this is when someone in a position of power makes a demand in exchange for decisions regarding employment such as promotion, recommendations and termination. Most often, this demand is sexual in nature, and less frequently, it is religious. A hostile work environment is the second type of harassment, and this occurs when an individual is subject to any number of harassing behaviors including racist jokes or language, unwanted sexual touching and display of racist or sexually suggestive pictures.
The harassment is against the law when it is both unwelcome and when it is based on the protected status of the target. There are many protected categories including religion, race, parental status, sexual orientation and more. It must also be determined that the harassment is severe and pervasive by the standards of a reasonable person. Factors such as the frequency and severity of the harassment, the position of the person responsible for the harassment and the effect on the target’s work and well-being are all taken into account.
An employee who has faced sexual harassment in the workplace should begin by reporting the action to a superior. If the action is reported and nothing is done, it may be necessary to speak with an employment law attorney who can review the evidence and determine the remedies that are available.
Source: US Department of Labor, “What do I need to know about… WORKPLACE HARASSMENT”, November 13, 2014