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How is sexual harassment handled in the courts?

Americans throughout the United States, including the New York tri-state area, have various protections in the workplace. Through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EOCC, has a very specific definition, which includes: unwanted sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; sexual physical or verbal conduct, which implicitly or explicitly, interferes with an employee's work, affects a worker's employment, or creates a work environment that is considered hostile, offensive or intimidating.

Although determining what actually constitutes sexual harassment on a case-by-case basis often varies, the courts have established two forms of sexual harassment in the workplace that can be determined as either "quid pro quo" or "hostile work environment."

In quid pro quo cases, there generally is a relationship between the sexual harassment victim and a harasser who is of a position of authority. This unequal relationship gives the harasser an advantage over the victim, and the harasser may try to use that position of power to coerce or threaten the victim if he or she fails to accept the harasser's advances or sexual actions.

In hostile work environment cases, a victim must prove that the workplace is ripe with inappropriate and or offensive material or behavior. This could be continual lewd or unwelcome sexual comments from co-workers, or even sexually explicit photographs, photos, or images exchanged via email.

In all instances, sexual harassment claims should always be taken seriously. It may be wise to seek legal advice or representation if you believe you have been a victim of any form of sexual harassment. There are laws in place to protect people from such behavior while at the workplace. However, the laws typically only work when the victim takes the first step toward rectifying the problem and possibly getting compensation for the harassment.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment: What is it?", Accessed Jan. 31, 2017

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