Sexual harassment in the work place is a topic discussed in every board room and by the lawyers that represent them. The last year has soon an explosion of information about workplace misbehavior and untold stories of abuse and exploitation. It’s important to take a step back and examine some of the rules and considerations when addressing an allegation of sexual harassment in the work environment.
First, only employers of a certain size are covered by these guidelines. It’s important to check in your jurisdiction to understand exactly what the requirements are.
Secondly, not all employees are covered under most harassment laws. For example, unpaid interns and independent contractors do not qualify.
There are also caps on damages that can be recovered in these types of cases, both for compensatory damages (damages designed to compensate a person for harm or distress) and punitive damages (damages designed to “punish” someone who’s done something wrong).
Other remedies may also be available which need to be “exhausted” (ie; tried before moving to litigation). And deadlines for filing a case are also an important consideration.
According to legal experts, sexual discrimination can take the form of a “hostile work environment”, created by severe or pervasive sexual harassment or it can involve a “quid pro quo” where sexual favors are required in exchange for some other work benefit (such as a promotion). This includes both same-sex harassment and opposite-sex harassment. LGBTQ individuals are protected under these guidelines who are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.