Nearly every employee has heard the term "sexual harassment," but not everyone understands exactly what it means. In spite of efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and various Minnesota organizations, myths abound in this area of law.
Here are four of the most common misconceptions:
Myth #1: Sexual harassment always involves touching.
This isn't true. According to the Sexual Violence Justice Institute, part of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, it can include much more than actual physical contact. Sexual harassment can consist of offensive jokes or comments, repeated exposure to explicit images, unwelcome requests for sexual favors and much more. For instance, if a coworker continues to pin pictures of unclothed women on the walls of his office cube, even after you complain to him and your boss, it may be considered harassment.
Myth #2: The victims are always women.
Women frequently suffer from sexual harassment in the workplace, but this illegal activity is certainly not limited to one gender. Sometimes men are harassed by women, and sometimes employees are harassed by others of the same gender. It doesn't matter whether you are male, female, LGBT or other. Your employer has the responsibility to stop the harassment. If your employer ignores the problem, you can take legal action.
Myth #3: Employers have the right to fire anyone who complains of harassment.
This is absolutely false. The law protects employees from adverse action if they report sexual harassment, discrimination or other wrongdoing in the workplace. If you are fired for filing a claim (or if you suffer less-obvious retaliation, such as being demoted or passed over for promotions), a lawyer can help you file a lawsuit to obtain justice.
Myth #4: The only good that can come of a lawsuit is to stop the harassment.
While litigation can put a stop to the inappropriate workplace behavior, it can also do more than that. It can potentially provide monetary compensation for your emotional distress and other suffering.
Learn more about workplace harassment and your legal rights by talking with an experienced employment law attorney today.