The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits the harassment of any applicant or employee due to that person's sex. Sexual harassment, under the EEOC, is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, offensive remarks, physical harassment of a sexual nature, or requests for sexual favors. Sexual harassment also includes employment decisions arising from the individual's acceptance or rejection of the unwelcome conduct. These decisions include hiring or promotion when the individual accepts the conduct, or rejection of application or demotion at work when the individual rejects the conduct. While sexual harassment law was originally intended to punish male offenders and protect female victims, the law has expanded to encompass woman as offender and man as victim and members of the LGBT community as both offender and victim. In the workplace setting, simple teasing and offhand comments are not prohibited but can be considered sexual harassment if done frequently and results to the creation of a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment law is part of the more-encompassing Employment Discrimination Law. Sexual harassment law is also included in Civil Rights Law. Often times, sexual harassment law involves personal injury law as some conduct leads to personal injuries, prompting victims to seek redress under personal injury law. Both federal and private employees are given avenues for the complaint, filing and resolution of sexual harassment. Many states have also passed Fair Employment Practice laws to address sexual harassment. When the sexual harassment leads to personal injuries, laws would vary from state to state.
Under the EEOC, victims of sexual harassment has until 180 days to file a sexual harassment charge against the offender. Federal employees are given 45 days to contact an EEO counselor following the act of sexual harassment. Although the law punishes sexual harassment, it is not uncommon that many of these acts go unreported as applicants or employees fear retaliation from the offender. For federal employees, a victim need not file a claim for the act to be punished as the federal government, especially the Office of Civil Rights, regularly investigates alleged sexual harassment. If supervisors and officials fail to report any sexual harassment, the S/OCR considers this as violation of its anti-sexual harassment campaign and may initiate a disciplinary action against anyone who failed to report such conduct. Aside from reporting to the government agencies of the sexual harassment, employees may also pursue mediation of the alleged conduct in order to attempt to resolve the problem. Employees can also file grievances with the EEO, although this avenue is not available for some civil servants.
Sexual harassment is a prevalent work-related problem, but, often because of the status of the offender (superior) and the victim (inferior) at work, these conducts go unreported. Sexual harassment also is difficult to detect especially when no one is complaining. For the company's part, it is best to employ labor law attorneys to ensure that the business is complaint with anti-sexual harassment law as violation of the law may lead to disciplinary actions for the offender and penalties for the companies. For the victim's part, battling for compensation as a result to sexual harassment may prove difficult because one's employment may be at stake. It is thus a good idea to hire a sexual harassment law attorney to help argue for the conduct and win the damages that are due to the aggrieved party.