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Sexual harassment: Hard to define?

The reason sexual harassment is so hard to identify in some situations is that is has a varied definition. In some ways, the variety of definitions can be beneficial to you when you want to seek help for this kind of crime. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, sexual harassment is any unwanted advance, physical touching that is sexual in nature or a request for sexual favors. There are other considerations for a case against someone who has been the victim of sexual harassment, but the definition loosely covers any unwanted sexual behavior in the workplace.

The International Labor Organization has called sexual harassment a type of sex discrimination that should be recognized under the Discrimination Convention. This is because sexual harassment tends to be a form of violence and causes more problems than just poor working conditions and violations of safety and health in the workplace.

Within the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment differently than Texas or other states. The federal agency reports that sexual harassment includes submission to sexual conduct in order to gain or keep employment. On top of that, if sexual favors are not given and the employee is fired or demoted, this is also sexual harassment. When the sexually charged conduct interferes with someone's ability to work and creates a hostile work environment, this can be defined as sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment doesn't have to be physical. Verbal and non-verbal harassment can also be defined as sexual harassment when they are sexual in nature. For instance, whistling at a female employee could be construed as sexual harassment. Physical sexual harassment could be anything from pinching an employee sexually or sexually assaulting an employee. Visual sexual harassment is also possible. This could be something like making sexual gestures toward another worker.

Source: University of Minnesota, "What is Sexual Harassment?" accessed Mar. 04, 2015

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