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Facts about sexual harassment in the workplace

Missouri residents may be unsure exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, the form of sex discrimination that is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is applicable to those employers with 15 employees or more and includes local and state governmental agencies and offices, the federal government, labor organizations and employment agencies.

Those victimized in the workplace should tell their harasser directly that their behavior or remarks are unwelcome and must cease. Employee grievance systems or Human Resources processes should be utilized if available.

Below are some facts about sexual harassment and the circumstances under which it frequently occurs.

Sexual harassment includes:

-- Requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and instances of physical or verbal conduct of a sexually explicit nature when these behaviors implicitly or explicitly adversely impact one's employment, create a hostile, offensive or intimidating working environment or cause unreasonable interference with one's work performance.

Some workers are unaware that a woman can sexually harass a man or another woman in the workplace, or that another man may sexually harass a male co-worker or subordinate. Harassers may also be agents of the employer or even someone not employed by the company. A victim can include someone other than the intended victim who is negatively affected by the incidents of offensive conduct.

Those victimized by unlawful sexual harassment do not have to suffer economic impact or be terminated from their employment. However, the harasser's conduct must always be unwelcome.

When those opposing sexual discrimination in the workplace or its work practices face retaliation for their opposition, it is illegal. The same provisions of Title VII also protect those who file discrimination charges or participate in investigations, litigation or proceedings or who may provide testimony in any of the former.

The best way for an employer to keep the workplace free of allegations of sexual harassment is through prevention, which includes clear communication to their employees that sexual harassment won't be tolerated. Sexual harassment training can be mandatory for all employees and an effective grievance/complaint process established where immediate and appropriate action is taken once an employee registers a complaint.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Facts About Sexual Harassment" Aug. 12, 2014

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