Posted by Tamara
Most people, and many New Hampshire employers, have a mistaken notion about what sexual harassment is.
They assume it only applies when a male supervisor promises a reward if a female employee complies with his sexual advances, or faces threats of losing her job if she does not.
That is sexual harassment, in fact, but only one kind. It falls into the category known as “quid pro quo,” one form of the illegal activity. Even quid pro quo need not involve simply a male supervisor or a female employee. Like other forms of sexual harassment, it could involve a female supervisor and male employee, two females, or two males.
In reality, any repeated, unwanted sexual advance in the workplace constitutes sexual harassment. If one worker leers at another and says “You look great in that shirt!” or if an employee tells dirty jokes in the workplace, that is sexual harassment. Any time a worker is the target of sexual behavior or attention because of his or her gender is likely to be sexual harassment, even if there is no covert or overt reward or punishment involved.
It is important that New Hampshire employers understand this. They should also realize that they are required by law to stop harassment. If an employer fails to stop it when it is brought to his or her attention, the company is likely to be liable and to face a hefty lawsuit initiated on behalf of the aggrieved employee by the EEOC. Millions of dollars in damages could be involved.
A couple of hypothetical examples will help explain the situation. If Melanie, a secretary, is told by her boss that she must perform oral sex on him or face firing, that is the obvious form of harassment. If Tom’s coworker Maria continually asks him out even though he says “no” the first time, that, too, is sexual harassment. If Tom reports it to his employer, and his employer fails to stop Maria, an expensive lawsuit is the likely outcome.
Harassment is not gender-specific. The EEOC has reported that complaints by male employees of sexual harassment is increasing.
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