Allegations involving workplace sexual harassment can be very upsetting for both the employer and the employee. These are situations that must be taken seriously and handled appropriately so that the rights of all parties are protected.
There are two general questions that must be considered when a sexual harassment claim has been or may be filed. Of course each of these questions is extremely complex and consists of several other questions, but at a high level, they are two general questions that must be addressed in any sexual harassment claim. The first question is: What happened? And the second is: How was the situation handled?
In regards to that first question, it is necessary to determine what statements or behaviors led to allegations of sexual harassment. Not all offensive or sexual interactions on the job necessarily warrant legal action. But if an employee can show that physical, emotional or verbal misconduct led to a hostile work environment, he or she can have a legitimate claim. If an employee has evidence that he or she was offered favorable treatment on the job in exchange for sexual favors, also called quid pro quo harassment, there may also be grounds for a claim.
However, a lawsuit may be avoided if the employer can show that reasonable actions were taken to stop the alleged misconduct or penalize the party responsible for the harassment. This is why the answer to that second question is essential. Employers have a responsibility to respond to complaints of sexual harassment and take steps to put a stop to it. When this is done properly, there may be no need for legal intervention. Those that do not respond, however, can face legal penalties for failing to protect an employee’s rights.
Sexual harassment claims can be very complicated and sometimes they boil down to one person’s word against another’s, making them very difficult to handle in some instances. Whether a person is filing a sexual harassment claim or has been named in one, it can be crucial to seek legal guidance and support. In many cases, attorneys can help people avoid costly litigation and resolve the dispute outside of court.
Source: State of Maryland Commission on Human Relations, “What is sexual harassment on the job?” accessed on Oct. 31, 2014