In today’s climate, where sexual harassment claims in the workplace are being given more credence than ever before. Indeed, the workplace has been highlighted as a space where many of these episodes occur. While sexual harassment is never okay, it can be especially egregious in the workplace because very often, the victim has little recourse but to go along with it or condone it, especially in a hostile work environment where speaking up might cause the victim their job.
Definitions And Statistics
Sexual harassment and hostile work environment have several definitions, but for purposes of charges under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC), both can be defined as unwelcome and/or inappropriate treatment that affects the ability of a person to do their job – essentially, bullying or mistreatment, but with a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is very often part of a hostile work environment, but not every hostile work environment includes conduct that amounts to sexual harassment. Also, mere teasing does not rise to the level of harassment; one or two inappropriate comments are very different from a sustained pattern of abuse.
One tends to assume that sexual harassment is always perpetrated by a male against a female, but this is simply not the case. If one examines recent data from the EEOC, one can see that roughly the same percentage of reported sexual harassment claims in the workplace during the last six fiscal years are filed by males. While one cannot know whether the harassers were male or female, it is still worthy of comment that it is not only women that are victimized – many men, in fact, may not even bother reporting because of the perceived bias against male victims of harassment.
If It Happens To You
Even if some people experience poor treatment, they may not wish to report it because they are afraid that their experiences may not constitute sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. It is easy to differentiate the two: if you are the target of a consistently inappropriate and inhospitable office environment or culture to the point where your ability to do your job is lessened, but it has nothing to do with sex or gender-related mistreatment, you are likely experiencing a hostile work environment.
However, if the teasing or abuse is primarily related to gender or sex, the claim verges more on sexual harassment. This also includes discrimination or poor treatment of transgender people based on their sex or gender identity, as this can be described as discrimination based on sex.
If you are experiencing either of these issues, you can file with SCHAC or with the EEOC, but the general rule is first to consult your company’s Human Resources department. Many employers are willing, even anxious to settle in-house, so as to avoid a potentially lengthy legal process. However, if your employer is not willing to settle your claim, it is a good idea to consult an attorney to evaluate your options.
Seek Experienced Legal Counsel
Discrimination and poor treatment have no place in any workplace – but to experience it based on something immutable like gender can add insult to injury. If you are the victim of gender-based harassment, or you fear you are experiencing a hostile work environment, contacting an experienced employment lawyer can help you pursue sexual harassment claims in the workplace. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his North Charleston firm are happy to try and assist you with your case.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.