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Discrimination & Harassment

Sexual Harassment - Hostile Work Environment

The law prohibits sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical harassment that is sexual in nature or because of gender. Our employment attorneys are dedicated to ensuring no person, male or female, has to endure a hostile work environment.

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Sexual Harassment/Hostile Work Environment Details

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) prohibit sexual harassment or a hostile work environment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of gender/sex discrimination. It may include conduct such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical harassment that is sexual in nature or because of your gender.

Sexual harassment is illegal if satisfaction of a sexual demand is used as the basis for an employment decision. For example, an employee may have a claim if he or she refuses a supervisor’s sexual demands and is terminated. Even in a situation where the employee does not suffer an adverse employment action, such as discipline or termination, the employee may still have a hostile work environment claim if the conduct is unwelcome and either severe or pervasive. Conduct that is either severe, such as a physical touching, or pervasive, such as persistent derogatory comments, may give rise to a hostile work environment claim even if the employee has not suffered actual discipline or termination.

Both men and women are protected from sexual harassment, and the conduct does not have to be motivated by sexual desires in order to qualify. Employees may even suffer sexual harassment from members of their own sex.

Employees who believe they are suffering from sexual harassment should first tell the harasser to stop, and then report the harassment to their employer. Employment manuals or handbooks typically provide employees with companies’ policies and procedures for addressing sexual harassment. Employees who simply tolerate offensive acts in the workplace without reporting the incidents may find they do not have an actionable sexual harassment claim.

Examples of Sex Harassment/Hostile Work Environment

Examples of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment may include:

  • Your boss or co-workers make negative or threatening comments about your gender, direct gender-based jokes at you, or make other negative gender-based remarks.
  • Your boss or co-workers comment about your clothing or your body, direct sexual jokes towards you, tell false stories about your sex life, or make other sexually suggestive remarks.
  • Your boss or co-workers touch you in inappropriate ways, including hugging, kissing, patting, or deliberately brushing up against you.
  • Your boss or co-workers have posters, magazines, pictures, or screensavers that are sexual in nature or derogatory or hostile toward your gender, or they circulate emails that are sexually suggestive or derogatory toward your gender.
  • Your boss threatens to fire or demote you, deny you a promotion, or take other action against you if you do not submit to a sexual demand, such as go on an unwanted date or have unwanted sex with him or her.
  • You have informed your employer about behavior similar to the examples described above, and your employer has not taken steps to investigate and prevent further sexual harassment from occurring.

Whether the above examples qualify as illegal discrimination depends largely on the city and state where you work since there is not an overarching federal law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.

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