In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), released their report on harassment in the workplace. The facts and statistics they found were shocking. Here are some of the most alarming findings:
- 45 percent of the EEOC’s claims in 2015 were related to sexual harassment.
- At least 25 percent of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace.
- 75 percent of harassment victims experienced retaliation when they reported an incident.
- Estimates say 87 to 94 percent of employees experiencing harassment do not file a formal complaint.
- Sexual harassment costs companies millions of dollars every year.
As you can see, the numbers above in regard to sexual harassment in the workplace are unsettling. Victims are forced to deal with the aftermath of the incident, no matter what transpired. It’s important for those victims to understand they are not alone. There are ways to hold the harasser and employer responsible for what never should have happened in the first place.
The information below will provide with the basics for handling sexual harassment in the workplace. We’ll go over the laws and your rights, how the EEOC categorizes sexual harassment claims, and what you can do to prove your case with the help of the Little Rock sexual harassment lawyers at McMath Woods P.A.
Sexual Harassment Laws
The EEOC defines sexual harassment in the workplace as unwelcomed sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job, resulting in a negative job outcome, or the creation of a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment is a serious issue that both men and women face.
State and federal laws protect employees from sexual harassment at work. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is labeled as a form of discrimination. The courts in Arkansas have ruled that AR Code Sec. 16-123-101 in the Arkansas Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace; however, it is not explicitly stated. Because of this, Arkansas courts typically apply an analysis from the federal act when harassment claims are brought forward.
Determining the liability in a sexual harassment case can be difficult; however, there are specific guidelines in place that establish when the employer is liable.
If the harassment was committed by a superior and tangible employment action was taken, like firing or demoting, the employer is liable. The employer is also liable if the harassment is deemed to cause a hostile work environment, which we’ll touch on in a bit. If the harassment was committed by a co-worker, the employer is liable if they knew about it and did nothing.
It’s important to know that only employers with 15 or more employees are subject to Title VII. Employers with fewer employees are typically subject to the state’s laws.
Categorizing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Under Title VII mentioned above, the EEOC categorizes sexual harassment into two types: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo. Under the quid pro quo form of harassment, a person in authority, like the employer or supervisor, demands subordinates tolerate sexual harassment. In theory, this tolerance allows the victims to keep their jobs or gain additions job benefits like promotions and raises. A single instance of harassment is sufficient enough evidence to support a quid pro quo claim.
Hostile Work Environment. Typically, there needs to be a pattern of harassment to justify a hostile work environment. Legal action can be taken when unwelcome conduct, based on sex, creates an abusive or offensive work environment. In order to determine whether or not a work environment is hostile, courts will analyze the following:
- The frequency of the conduct
- The type of conduct, i.e. verbal, physical, or both
- Whether the alleged harasser was a supervisor or co-worker
- Whether the conduct was hostile and blatantly offensive
- Whether others, regardless of position, joined in perpetrating the harassment
- Whether the harassment was directed at one individual or multiple employees
Without the proper evidence, it can be difficult to prove sexual harassment in the workplace claims.
Proving a Sexual Harassment Claim
Proving a sexual harassment claim can be a difficult feat, especially if you’re uncertain as to what evidence to have on hand. There also a difference between proving a sexual harassment claim against a supervisor versus a co-worker.
If you’re trying to prove a sexual harassment claim against a supervisor, you will need to be able to show a pattern of sexually offensive and intimidating behavior that either leads to adverse employment action or creates a hostile work environment. Your employer can defend itself if you unreasonably failed to report the harassment and there were policies in place that would have prevented or stopped the behavior.
In the event you’re trying to prove a sexual harassment claim against a co-worker, you’ll need to be able to show your company knew about the harassment and did not take the appropriate steps to resolve the incident(s). You must show you reported the offensive behavior in conjunction with your employer’s failure to protect you.
Reclaiming Control with a Little Rock Sexual Harassment Lawyer
At McMath Woods P.A., we understand sexual harassment claims in the workplace are often sensitive. We’re prepared to represent and support you, so you can focus on getting your life back in order. Our Arkansas sexual harassment attorneys have decades of experience in employment law. We help victims of sexual harassment recover compensatory and punitive damages. Contact us today for a consultation to learn about your rights and options.