No one should have to face unwelcome sexual advances in the workplace. It is for this reason that the laws of Connecticut prohibit this conduct and provide means of restitution and justice for the victim. Still, many individuals who are sexually harassed at work feel embarrassed, intimidated, and even threatened. They worry about losing their jobs if they report the incident and may not know what their next steps should be. If you’re a victim of sexual harassment, you have a trusted ally in Stanfield Bechtel Law.
How Is Sexual Harassment Defined?
Connecticut statutes broadly define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, requests for sex or sexual favors, or sexual conduct (including sexually explicit comments and crude jokes) which are made as a term or condition of employment. It can take the form of an explicit statement, also known as a quid pro quo, such as directly telling an employee that he or she must have sex to receive a promotion. It may also be an implication, suggestion, or hint of the same.
In some cases, victims are informed that an employment decision will depend on how they respond to the harassing behavior. This might even include deciding whether the victim can keep their job. Sexual conduct that interferes with the workplace or the ability of the victim to perform his or her work may be considered harassment. Typically this is referred to as creating a hostile work environment.
Harassment can come directly from the employer, including the owner, manager, supervisor, or someone else in the company who has authority. It can also come from a co-worker. In the latter case, the employer can be held liable for failing to stop the harassment. While sexual harassment is often perpetrated by men against women, anyone can be an aggressor or a victim. Sexual harassment can include women harassing men, men harassing men, and women harassing women.
Sexual harassment also doesn’t have to be verbal. Crude, derogatory, or sexually explicit photos, videos, drawings, cartoons, posters, or gestures are included in the definition. Inappropriate touching can amount to sexual harassment. Comments that are made in jest or followed up with a dismissive statement such as “I’m just kidding” can still constitute harassment.
The objectionable behavior doesn’t have to occur in the workplace; if it has a negative impact on the work environment, it can be considered sexual harassment. As a result, employers and employees cannot defend themselves by arguing the harassment took place outside of work hours or off the employer’s premises.
Sexual Harassment Under Federal Law
Sexual harassment isn’t just against state law, it violates federal law as well. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for employers to allow anyone to be sexually harassed at work by anyone else, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation. This means employees and employers cannot engage in harassment, nor can employers allow it to continue. A victim therefore may seek relief from federal courts in some cases.
Retaliation Is Also Illegal
Sexual harassment is bad enough, but to add insult to injury, some employers punish their employees for refusing or reporting sexual advances. Fortunately for victims, this is also against the law. Similarly, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for participating in an investigation concerning sexual harassment allegations. Retaliation can include any type of negative employment consequences, including:
- Unwarranted discipline and subsequent punishment
- Negative performance reviews
- Demotion or denial of a promotion
- Denying future career advancement opportunities
- Reducing work hours
- Undesirable job transfers or refusing a reasonable transfer request
- Harassing the employee
- Creating a hostile work environment
- Suspending the employee
- Terminating the employee
Steps to Take if You’re a Victim of Sexual Harassment
Our goal at Stanfield Bechtel Law is to stop sexual harassment and seek justice for victims. We suggest doing the following if you’ve been harassed:
Tell the harasser to stop. Clearly communicate that the conduct is unwelcome and firmly request that it end. This can understandably be difficult for many victims, but to the best possible extent you should convey that the behavior needs to stop.
Document the harassment. Keep any electronic communications such as emails and text messages. Make personal notes about the identity of the harasser, the nature of the harassment, where and when it occurred. Also make a note of other individuals who either participated in the harassment or appeared to approve it.
Get a copy of your company’s anti-harassment policy. Most businesses have internal policies and procedures, often included in an employee handbook, that address such conduct. You may need to ask your human resources department for a copy.
Make a complaint in writing. Policies and procedures manuals usually have a grievance process in place, which will likely include filing a written complaint with the appropriate individual or department. Explain the behavior in detail and be sure to use the phrase “sexual harassment” in describing it. Be sure to follow all of the steps required to file your complaint.
If your company indeed has an established complaint procedure and sexual harassment policy, it is imperative that you abide by it to preserve your legal rights.
Possible Legal Remedies for Sexual Harassment
You can file a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) to seek certain legal damages and other relief. You will have 300 days from the date of the harassing behavior to take action. We can assist in doing so, and can help you claim the following:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Attorney’s fees and costs
- Cease and desist orders
- Pre- and post-judgment interest
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages in some cases
Court action may be necessary depending on what the CHRO does. We will review the circumstances surrounding the sexual harassment and advise you on the best possible course of action.
Contact Our Connecticut Employment Sexual Harassment Attorney
The intimidation, discomfort, and sometimes even fear that sexual harassment victims experience is unacceptable. Let Stanfield Bechtel Law help you explore and use the legal rights and options you have to put an end to this conduct and seek the compensation you deserve. Connect with us today to get started.