Sexual harassment occurs far more often than one would expect. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees in any capacity, whether it is a private workplace or a government agency.
What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when there are unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature and these occurrences affect a person’s employment, creates inteferences with a person’s work performance, or creates an environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
Why have some People Gotten away with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
You may remember the allegations of sexual harassment against famous, powerful men, such as Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, and NBC’s Today Show host, Matt Lauer. Some employers, like Mr. Weinstein, relied on non-disclosure agreements (“NDA”) to negotiate settlement agreements with employees who were sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace. Because of this, some employees remained silent for years because they feared legal repercussions from reporting the sexual assault to the police or human resources. It is so sad to see people fear being honest.
However, generally, no type of NDA can prohibit a person from reporting a crime. Failing to report a crime goes against public policy. But what if you are not sure if something is or is not a crime, such as sexual harassment, where the definition can vary from state to state. Situations like these make it difficult to know if your NDA will prevent you from speaking out. NDAs can be confusing when you are not sure if something is considered a crime or not, that is why it is best to contact an attorney to know what your best option is.
How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is essential to avoid a lawsuit. It is important to take as many steps as you could possibly take to prevent sexual harassment. Your company’s employee handbook should have a policy devoted to sexual harassment. That policy should include, but is not limited to, the definition sexual harassment, state the consequences for those who commit sexual harassment, provide a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints, and state that you will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who comes forward with a complaint about sexual harassment.