Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Employees across the country are subjected to sexual harassment on a daily basis. The problem comes in knowing whom to turn to. Are you afraid that you may be blowing something out of proportion or afraid how you will be perceived if you say something, and you’re just not sure? Employees and employers have a right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment, and this is where this blog comes into play.

There are two types of sexual harassment: “hostile work environment” harassment and “quid pro quo” harassment. It is possible for a person to be subjected to both of these types of sexual harassment at the same time.

Massachusetts General Laws defines “hostile work environment” harassment as: “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when … such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.”

According to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination some examples of this type of conduct would be:

  • Sexual Jokes
  • Sexual References
  • Gossip regarding one’s sex life
  • Comments regarding an individuals body
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures or cartoons
  • Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures and suggestive or insulting comments

The list above is non-exhaustive and you should speak with Attorney Bisson to see if the conduct you have been subjected to would be considered sexual harassment.

Massachusetts General Laws defines “quid pro quo” harassment as: “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when … submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions … .” An example of this type of sexual harassment would be if an employer told an employee that he or she would not receive their paycheck this week unless they performed certain sexual acts.

Sexual harassment is illegal, and nobody has to endure it. If you feel you are being subjected to sexual harassment, it is important to speak with someone. Attorneys, under the rules of professional responsibility, have a duty of confidentiality. This is to a person’s benefit, because, for example, if you speak to an attorney and find out you do not have a claim, it cannot be revealed to your employer or fellow employees by the attorney. This confidentiality allows you to speak freely.

One very important thing to remember is that there is a short statute of limitations on both of these types of sexual harassment claims, 300 days. This means that if the conduct occurred more than 300 days ago, you may be barred from bringing a claim. The word “may” is very important, as there are some certain strategic arguments that can be made so that the claim may still be brought forward. With respect to federal sexual harassment claims, the statute of limitations is only 180 days.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or think you have been subjected to sexual harassment, contact The Law Office Of Barry J. Bisson immediately to discuss your rights before time runs out.

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