An Overview of Sexual Harassment Law

According to the latest report published by the US EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), more than 12,000 complaints related to workplace sexual harassment are filed by both women and men every year. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, contact us. At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, we have a team of experienced and knowledgeable North Carolina and South Carolina sexual harassment lawyers who can advise you about your rights and legal actions you can take to protect yourself.

As sexual harassment is a complex issue, it’s important to develop a good understanding of it, which includes the conduct that is deemed harassment and how the law protects victims. Read on to learn about it in detail.

Understanding the Sexual Harassment Law in North and South Carolina

North and South Carolina follow the federal laws regarding sexual harassment claims. Under federal law, sexual harassment is an act of sex discrimination in which Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is violated. It is illegal and entitles victims to file a lawsuit against their harasser or employer in the federal court.

The US EEOC states that sexual harassment can constitute a variety of behaviors where the rejection of or submission to them implicitly or explicitly affects the employment of the victim and interferes unreasonably with their performance and productivity. These include acts like:

  • Undesirable sexual advances

  • Sexual favor requests

  • Unwanted touch or brushing

  • Sexual comments and innuendos

  • Sexually suggestive jokes

  • Any other physical or verbal conduct of sexual nature developing a hostile, offensive or intimidating workplace environment.

The harasser and the victim can be a man and a woman, or a woman and a man, or they can be the same gender. The harasser can be an employer, supervisor, employer’s agent, a non-employee or a co-worker. The victim can be someone who is directly harassed or anyone who is indirectly affected by the offensive conduct between the victim and the harasser.

Some examples of workplace harassment include:

  • Hitting on the victim repeatedly and asking for a date where the victim has already turned down the request.

  • Making sexual comments such as complimenting the victim’s body.

  • Making sexual jokes.

  • Touching the victim inappropriately without their consent. This includes everything from patting on the behind to sexual assault and rape.

  • Asking questions about the personal/sex life of the victim.

  • Workplace stalking.

Who is Liable?

If the harasser is a co-worker, then they are liable for their behavior. If the employer knows about the harassment, or should have known about it, or has provided an environment where such behavior is encouraged, then according to the sexual harassment law, the employer shall be held liable—even though they did not participate in it directly.

Types of Sexual Harassment Claims

As per the law implemented in South and North Carolina, sexual harassment claims can be divided into two categories:

  • Quid Pro Quo

This occurs when decisions related to employment, such as assigned tasks, promotion, increment or job retention, are based on the victim’s submission to sexual harassment. In other words, the victim must submit to the authority’s demand for sexual favors for job retention or promotion.

  • Hostile Workplace

This is when undesirable sexual conduct interferes unreasonably and creates an intimidating or hostile environment for work, thereby negatively affecting the victim’s job productivity and performance. Here it is important to understand that courts may take different factors to determine whether the work environment is offensive and hostile. It includes factors such as:

  • How frequently the act was repeated
  • Was the conduct physical, verbal or both?
  • Was the harasser a supervisor or co-worker?
  • Who joined the act of harassment?
  • Was the harassment directed to more than one individual?

Steps to File a Sexual Harassment Claim

If you are a victim of sexual harassment at work, then report the incident to your employer. However, if it doesn’t have any effect on your situation, your next option is to file a formal complaint with the EEOC. Generally, a complaint should be submitted to the EEOC within 6 months or 180 days of the sexual harassment incident.

Once the sexual harassment claim is filed, the US EEOC agency may ask you and your employer to participate in a voluntary mediation to try to settle the complaint. If the complaint is not resolved and the EEOC determines it needs more information, it will perform an in-depth investigation of the case. This will cover aspects like:

  • Employment records review

  • Subpoenaing documents

  • Interviewing the witnesses (if any)

If the EEOC determines the law may have been violated, it will try to reach a voluntary settlement with your employer, or it may decide to file a lawsuit against your employer.

If the conclusion of the case is unsatisfactory or it is not resolved appropriately, then you will receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC when it closes its investigation, and you will have the right to file a civil lawsuit. However, such a lawsuit should be filed within 3 months of receipt of the Notice from the EEOC. Also, it can only be filed if you have exhausted the possible remedies.

In other words, the law requires a victim to report the incident to the employer and follow the necessary procedures to resolve. If the matter is not handled seriously, then it should be reported to the EEOC to preserve the right to file a civil lawsuit.

All this can be complex and stressful, especially because of the technicalities involved and the fact that you’re already going through the trauma of sexual harassment. Due to all these reasons, you may not be able to think straight. This is why it is advisable that you seek legal assistance from our team of experienced and compassionate North Carolina and South Carolina sexual harassment lawyers. Our lawyer will help you navigate through legal complexities while protecting your rights and seeking justice. Contact us today for case consultation. Remember that you’re not alone. We are here to help.

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