Sexual harassment in the workplace: know your rights

The American workplace is grueling, stressful and surprisingly hostile. So finds an in-depth study of 3,066 U.S. workers.

  • (AP Photo/Elise Amendola).

SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) – A 2016 study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found anywhere from 25 to 85% of women experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, depending on their definition of harassment. But, a 2013 poll found 70 to 90% of victims do not file a complaint with their employers.

The National Women’s Law Center said sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination. When it happens at any job, it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Employers can be legally responsible for sexual harassment between employees. The company can be liable if the victim was harassed by a supervisor, then demoted or fired. An employer can also be held responsible by not correcting any claims of harassment.

“It’s fairly common that you’re concerned about being labeled,” said Cherie Heasley, Communications Manager for Sarasota-based group SPARCC, of victims. “You’re concerned about the outcomes of what’s going to happen, and you just don’t want it to be a thing, but you don’t want it to continue either.”

“No matter how petty you feel that it is, if you are in a position where you feel uncomfortable in the workplace, you should come forward and say something,” said Kevin Cooper, President and CEO of Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

According to the NWLC, harassment can also have a negative financial effect on the employee and employer. Victims try to avoid harassment by taking sick leave or time off without pay, which can lead to lower workgroup productivity and high turnover rates. If the employer is held responsible, the victim is entitled to applicable back pay and monetary compensatory damages.


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