Many employees in Texas may dread going to work each day because of the unwelcome sexual behaviors or comments of a boss, co-worker, client or someone else they must work with.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically addresses the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment. To create this safe environment, the EEOC encourages employers to take certain steps:
- Have a well-defined no-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment
- Provide training to employees so there is no question of what behaviors are not tolerated
- Establish a system where employees can report sexual harassment without fear of retaliation
- Take complaints seriously and act on them immediately
Many people claim that sexual harassment definitions are not clear enough. RAINN notes that there are some gray areas that may fall under the heading of sexual misconduct, and these may not be illegal.
Some companies have policies that may limit these behaviors, such as not permitting co-workers to be in sexual relationships. Even when a relationship is consensual, it could affect the dynamic at work, particularly if it is between an employee and a supervisor.
On the other hand, there are some behaviors that every worker should be able to recognize as sexual harassment easily:
- Saying or suggesting that the employee’s career status is dependent on participation in sexual activities
- Asking the employee for sexual favors or making unwelcome advances of a sexual nature
- Talking about sexual matters to or in front of an employee
- Sending sexually explicit communications to an employee who does not want them
Even more obvious behaviors include someone who exposes himself or herself to the employee or who performs acts of a sexual nature on himself or herself.
When the behavior includes unwanted sexual contact, it becomes sexual assault. Sexual harassment breaks civil laws because it violates a person’s rights. Sexual assault is a criminal offense that could lead to charges and a conviction.