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You do not have to tolerate sexual harassment at work

You may have enjoyed going to work until the company assigned a new manager to your department.

At first, he seemed like a perfectly decent, responsible person, but after a few weeks he became a little too “friendly” with many of the women in the department, including you. He has made your work environment very difficult. Should you have to take it?

A little history

To be clear, harassment is a form of employment discrimination. It violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, among other laws. Targets of harassment can be age, religion, race, color, national origin, disability and sex. The term sexual harassment originated in 1975 with activists at Cornell University. In 1991, legislators amended the Civil Rights Act to permit women who were victims of sexual harassment to seek compensation and punitive damages in a court action. The number of cases nearly tripled between 1991 and 1996 and awards to victims during that period topped out at $27.8 million. While quid pro quo harassment incidents—such as advancement in return for sexual favors—have declined, sexual harassment that causes a hostile workplace environment has continued.

Offensive conduct

Your new manager likes to tell ribald jokes, and the more women that are present to hear them, the better. He invades your workspace with offensive pictures or directs your attention to offensive photos online. If this only happened once, it would not be illegal, but if he subjects you and the other women in your department to these off-color, racy comments and jokes daily, that is sexual harassment.

Understanding liability

Your employer can be held liable for allowing the new manager to create a hostile work environment. The same holds true if this kind of behavior should result in a negative action, such as terminating someone because she complained. This should not happen. You and your co-workers have options; you do not have to tolerate sexual harassment in any form nor work in a hostile environment. 

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