Posted by Tamara
It is the responsibility of all employers in Virginia and across the country to provide an environment free from sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
Unfortunately, Virginia employers often have misconceptions about what constitutes sexual harassment. Many companies assume that a quid pro quo situation must exist for the behavior to be discriminatory. For example, Tina is a secretary. Her boss repeatedly asks her for sex, implying that she will lose her job is she refuses. This is definitely sexual harassment, but only one example of it.
Any employee, male or female, can be the victim of sexual harassment. If a worker becomes the focus of unwanted attention in the workplace because of his or her sex, that employee is being sexually harassed, even in the absence of a promise of reward or a threat of punishment.
Consider Maria, an employee in Virginia. She is attracted to Tom, a coworker, and asks him out. He refuses and makes it clear he isn’t interested. As long as Maria accepts Tom’s refusal and doesn’t ask him out again, nothing illegal has occurred. If, however, Maria continues to ask Tom on a date, even after he refuses, she is now guilty of sexually harassing Tom.
Though most employees and employers think of sexual harassment as men making unwelcome sexual advances to women, male employees are often victims, too. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently reported that complaints made by male workers being sexually harassed by women have increased. In addition, more and more complaints of male employees harassing other male employees are being filed as well.
It is vital that employers understand the definition of sexual harassment, because it is their responsibility to provide a harassment-free work environment. If an employee is being harassed, the company must stop the behavior, whether it comes from a colleague, a supervisor, a vendor or even a customer. Any employer that doesn’t put an end to sexual harassment is legally liable, and can end up paying damages totaling in the millions.
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