An employee might not understand that workplace sexual harassment is illegal, but they know that it’s unacceptable. Human resource managers review sexual harassment policies during an employee’s onboarding/training process. They issue warnings in employee handbooks and display them on colorful posters. Despite these precautions, sexual harassment is still a problem in the workplace. Harassers usually recognize sexual harassment examples, and victims usually understand their rights, but abusive behavior continues for a number of reasons.
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct. It’s a form of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) of 1964 and the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA)/Arizona Revised Statutes § 41-1463. Anyone in a work environment can be a harasser or a victim: fellow employees, supervisors, even visitors or customers can be instigators of workplace harassment.
discrimination laws apply to companies with only one employee. Under the CRA, the laws apply only to companies with 15 employees or more. Additionally, it is important to note that the conduct must be unwelcome, create a hostile environment, or be an explicit or implicit job requirement. If the unwelcome conduct is severe enough, a single act or physical incident can create a hostile work environment. Sexually harassing conduct does not necessarily need to be motivated by sexual desire, and includes conduct that is sexually inappropriate. Furthermore, The harasser and victim do NOT have to be of the opposite sex; same-sex sexual harassment is pervasive and unlawful.
Phoenix, Tucson, Glendale, and other Arizona cities have passed civil rights legislation that specifically adds LGTBQ+ individuals and families as protected classes.
As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains, unlawful harassment isn’t “…petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents…” Harassing a member of a protected class is only illegal when it creates a hostile work environment or is a condition of employment, also known as “quid pro quo.”
A hostile work environment becomes unlawful when the conduct becomes so “severe or pervasive” that a reasonable person would deem the work environment intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Examples include:
In a quid pro quo scenario, an employee receives a benefit in exchange for complying with unwelcome sexual demands. The employer’s demands must be a condition of an employee’s hiring, continued employment, or other employment benefit. The requirement for sexual favors can be expressed or implied. Examples include:
Arizona employers have a critical role in preventing and stopping sexual harassment. They control or should control employees’ behavior and work environments. They have a duty to educate employees about sexual harassment policies. Employers also establish disciplinary procedures to deal with violators. When sexual harassment occurs in an Arizona workplace, the employer’s liability still varies depending on the circumstances.
Cases involving harassment and other employment issues are often legally complex and require immediate action. You need an employment law attorney to protect your interests. If you are a federal employee, you must file a complaint within 45 days of the incident with your Agency’s EEO Office. If you work in the private sector, you have up to 180 days, and in some circumstances 300 days, to file a complaint with the EEOC or the Arizona Civil Rights Division.
Employment law attorneys understand the complex legal issues and the urgency to take action. When you schedule a legal consultation, they review your case, explain your options, and help you determine your next steps.