Sexual Harassment

With the Me Too movement, sexual harassment has come to the forefront of the nation’s attention. However, sexual-harassment is a relatively new concept under the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 initially targeted sex discrimination, not sexual-harassment. The Supreme Court first address the issue in 1986 and a case called Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson. In that case, the supreme court help that title seven prohibited sex discrimination that was rooted in sexual harassment.

How am I protected from sexual harassment?

A. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

As stated above, the Supreme Court recognized that title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited sex discrimination that constitutes sexual harassment. Like most claims under title VII, the EEOC investigates charges of discrimination which allege sexual-harassment. It is important to file a charge of discrimination within the timeline specified by the statute.

B. The Texas Labor Code

Texas state law also prohibits sexual-harassment in the workplace as the Texas labor code has a provision in it that states that it is the goal for state law to follow the federal statute. Again, like other claims under the Texas labor code, sexual-harassment claims filed with the Texas Workforce Commission are investigated by the TWC so long as the claims are appropriately made within the allowable timeframe.

What is sexual harassment?

"In a general sense, sexual-harassment has been defined as engaging in ‘unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually offensive remover language, or other verbal, visual, or physical conduct.’" Nagel Mfg. & Supply Co. v. Ulloa. Currently, the courts have recognized two types of sexual-harassment:

  1. Quid Pro Quo; and
    • This is your typical, "If you scratch my back I scratch your back scenario."
  2. Hostile work environment
    • The harassment must be "severe and pervasive" for it to be considered a hostile work environment.
Additionally, the sexual-harassment must be unwelcome in order for it to give rise to legal liability under both quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Ultimately, what constitute sexual harassment discrimination in the workplace is quite complicated because it deals heavily with interactions between humans and what is considered acceptable and what is not considered acceptable. Therefore, if you have experienced or think you have experience sexual harassment workplace, it may be in your best interest to talk to a Texas employment attorney to evaluate your case.

What are some examples of sexual harassment?

The following are some examples of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Gender harassment – this can be an openly hostile work environment because of an individual's gender;
  • Bribery based on sex – this occurs when an employer tries to solicit sexual favors in exchange for a work related reward;
  • Sexual assault – this includes physical assault and rape;
  • Coercion – this occurs when an employer attempts to coerce an employee into doing sexual acts to avoid negative employment action;
  • Seduction – this happens when an employer makes unwanted advances towards employees; and
  • Favoritism – the EEOC guidelines state favoritism may give rise to employer liability
These of course are only some of the ways in which an employee may be subjected to a sexual-harassment.

Is same-sex sexual harassment illegal?

Yes, the individual harassing you at work does not have to be of the opposite sex. Sexual harassment laws do you require that the harassment be "because of sex," but that does not mean that you cannot be subjected to sexual-harassment by an individual in the workplace who is of the same sex. The Supreme Court recognized same sex sexual harassment as unlawful in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.

Contact me, a Houston sexual harassment lawyer

Contact me to schedule a consultation if you believe that you have been subjected to sexual-harassment another place. Time to act on sexual-harassment claims is short. For private, non-governmental employees, you may have a deadline of 180 to 300 days. For federal employees, the window is shorter at 45 days.