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Alaska Sexual Harassment

Posted by Tamara

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that occurs when an Alaska employee is the focus of unwanted attention in the workplace due to his or her sex. Many employers mistakenly believe that in order for sexual harassment to occur, the employee must be promised a reward or threatened with losing his or her job, if the employee does not agree to sexual interaction. (This exchange is called quid pro quo.) However, that impression is inaccurate. In reality, any repeated unwelcome sexual advances or overtures in the workplace are sexual harassment, even if there is no overt or implied reward or punishment.  

Any employee, male or female, can be harassed by a coworker or supervisor of either sex. The EEOC reports that complaints by men of sexual harassment by women are on the increase. So are complaints by male employees that they are being sexually harassed by other male employees.  

Suppose Tina is a secretary whose boss repeated asks her for oral sex, and implies that if she does not comply, she will be fired. This is certainly one form of sexual harassment – but it is not the only one.  

Tom’s coworker Maria asks him  to go out on a date with her. Tom says no. This single incident does not constitute sexual harassment. However, if Maria asks Tom out five different times, and each time he says “no”, that is sexual harassment. Tom has made it clear that Maria’s  advances are unwelcome. An employer who allows Maria to continue this harassment will probably pay millions of dollars to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit the EEOC files on Tom’s  behalf.   

Even one employee leering at another or saying, “You really look great in that shirt!” is sexual harassment. In some cases, the courts have found that telling dirty jokes in the workplace was sexual harassment.  

Anytime an employee is the target of behavior or attention simply due to his or her gender, that action may very well be sexual harassment or sex discrimination.  

Employers are required to provide a work environment where employees are free of sexual harassment from anyone, including other employees, supervisors, customers and vendors. This means that if a customer is sexually harassing an employee, the employer must put a stop to it. An employer who fails to do so is liable and may be required to pay millions of dollars in damages.  

The philosophy is simply that employees should be able to complete their work duties without fending off coworkers or bosses, or being the focus of repeated sexual attention.  

Various states also have antidiscrimination laws that apply to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

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