When an employee feels uncomfortable in the workplace, it is important that they understand how to address the situation. Whether they work in Minnesota or elsewhere in the nation, employees should not be subjected to offensive conduct or unwanted sexual advances in the work environment. These actions constitute sexual harassment, and whether carried out by an employer or a co-worker, there are employee rights that protect a worker when faced with these uncomfortable and wrong situations.
What is sexual harassment and what can employees do when if they experience it? According to the law, harassment is unwanted or unwelcomed conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or disability. This behavior becomes unlawful when the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or creates a hostile work environment.
With regards to sexual harassment, offensive conduct often includes offensive jokes, slurs, name calling, physical assaults, touching, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures and other actions that interfere with performance in the workplace. When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, the victim is not always just the person being harassed. A witness of the offensive conduct could be impacted as well and thus a victim of that harassment.
In order to prevent sexual harassment, employees are encouraged to take the appropriate steps to correct the situation and prevent further harassment. This might require the employee to file a legal claim. This not only seeks to hold the harasser liable, but it could help the employee recover compensation for the losses and damages caused by the harassment.
Employees dealing with or witnessing sexual harassment in the work environment should understand their legal rights and remedies. This could help them stop the harasser, protect others in the workplace, and potentially provide the victim with a monetary award to address the damages caused by the situation.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Harassment," accessed Feb. 3, 2015