Workplace sexual harassment of employees is an awful and unfortunately commonplace situation that can damage people in many ways. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) study found that anywhere from 25-85% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. That study also found that 75% of workplace harassment incidents go unreported.
The latest example of this type of behavior comes from Chicago, where a sexual harassment case at a Long John Silver’s restaurant has resulted in a $200,000 settlement. The suit charged that Long John Silver’s violated federal law when it subjected a teenage female employee at its Centralia, Illinois restaurant to sexual harassment. The suit said that the company failed to stop harassment by two adult male managers and retaliated against the teenage employee when she objected to the harassment. The alleged harassment by the two adult male managers included lewd comments, unwanted touching, propositions for sex, and sexually explicit text messages and videos. The teenage employee alleged that Long John Silver’s refused to investigate her complaint and reduced her hours in retaliation.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it.
Workplace sexual harassment can include (but isn’t limited to) the following types of conduct:
Threatening an employee’s position or implying that their job is at risk, depending on their response to a sexual advance
Asking an employee questions of a sexual nature
Inappropriate comments about an employee’s body or appearance
Slurs or “jokes” about an employee’s gender or sexual orientation
Vulgar, explicit, or offensive jokes (even if they are not aimed at you specifically)
Sending sexual emails, texts, or other messages
Remember that, when it comes to workplace sexual harassment, what counts as sexual harassment is not determined by the intentions of the person committing the harassment. What matters is what the person who is being harassed thinks and/or feels.
It is also important to remember that harassment in the workplace does not only come from an employee’s supervisor or co-workers. An employer is obligated to protect its employees from sexual harassment that comes from customers, clients, or vendors. In these cases, as well as in cases of co-worker harassment, it is critical that the employee being harassed promptly report the incident through the appropriate internal channels.