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Why is sexual harassment in the workplace hard to prove?

As a previous post highlighted, sexual harassment in the workplace can take different forms and can occur at varying degrees. Additionally, a victim does not need to be the direct victim of the harasser, but could be an individual impacted by witnessing sexual harassment in the workplace. While sexual harassment could lead to serious damages experienced by a victim, it is not always easy to prove that these situations have occurred in work environments in Minnesota and elsewhere.

Why is sexual harassment in the workplace hard to prove? One reason is that the victim must prove that the unwanted sexual advances were in fact unwelcomed conduct. It could be alleged that a victim voluntarily participated in the conduct. This could be asserted by providing evidence of the victim's provocative speech or how they dressed. However, such evidence is not always relevant in proving whether a particular advance was unwanted or not.

Additionally, when an employee asserts a sexual harassment claim, it is often claimed that he or she was forced to work in a hostile environment. Employee rights afford an employee the right to work in an environment that is free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult that is based on sex, race, religion or national origin. In order to prove that an employee was subjected to a hostile environment, it must be proven that sexual harassment caused such a situation.

The information above is only exemplary and not exhaustive of all the issues involved with proving sexual harassment. Filing a complaint regarding sexual harassment in the workplace is often a difficult process to initiate for victims. Additionally, because it can be challenging to prove, victims often endure additional emotional and even monetary damages. These issues can become very complex, which is why it is important that employees get the right information about rights and options to remedy the situation.

Source:, "Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment," accessed Oct. 19, 2015

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