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What is Considered Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?

Published May 17, 2018 by ADRAS & ALTIG, Attorneys at Law
men and women working together at desk

The recent sexual harassment and assault allegations against men in the entertainment and political arenas have sparked renewed discussions about workplace harassment. It is important to understand what harassment is, and how to defend yourself if you are unfairly accused of it.

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that violates Nevada state law and federal law. Requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are considered sexual harassment when the act affects an individual’s employment, work performance, or creates a hostile work environment.

All employees ranging from upper-level management to those in entry-level jobs need to be aware of what qualifies as sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can occur between any sex and gender of employees, not just male to female. The Nevada Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

In certain situations, sexual harassment may rise to level of alleged criminal conduct and result in criminal charges. In these instances, a person facing criminal charges involving sexual harassment will need the assistance of criminal defense attorney.

Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

There are two types of sexual harassment that are recognized by federal law: quid pro quo and a hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo harassment entails unwelcome sexual advances and/or requests for sexual favors by a boss or manager in return for promises of promotion or raises or to prevent being fired from their job.

Examples of quid pro quo harassment include:

  • A worker turns down a supervisor sexual advances and is fired. The worker may have been a victim of quid pro quo harassment.
  • A supervisor offers preferential treatment in exchange for sexual favors on the part of the employee.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment can be created by supervisors, co-workers, clients, or contractors that the employee interacts with while on the job.

Examples of behavior that contributes to a hostile work environment can include:

  • Touching another employee inappropriately and in a sexual manner
  • Making comments about another employee’s appearance, clothing, or body parts in a sexual way
  • Displaying sexually suggestive photos or pictures in the workplace
  • Telling crude jokes and sharing sexual anecdotes
  • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos, such as pornography, with co-workers
  • Asking sexual questions about a person’s sexual history or orientation
  • Making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Sending sexually suggestive letters, notes, or e-mails to a co-worker

Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace may not be the only target of the offender. For example, a co-worker standing nearby when inappropriate sexual comments are being made to the victim can also be affected.

It is the employer’s responsibility to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and if sexual harassment occurs, to take immediate action. Employers should have an established sexual harassment policy for employees in the workplace.

When is Sexual Harassment a Crime in Nevada?

Certain types of sexually harassing conduct may result in a criminal charge against the alleged perpetrator.

  • Harassment— In Nevada, behavior or comments that are sexual in nature that threaten a person’s physical or psychological safety may lead to criminal charges of harassment or aggravated harassment. For example, sending a person an email threatening to force that person to submit to sex may be charged as harassment.
  • Stalking—Following someone around the workplace or home from work while making sexual taunts or sending sexually explicit emails, photos or texts while putting the individual in fear of his or her safety may be charged as stalking or cyber-stalking.
  • Assault—Attempted unwanted fondling, touching or groping may be charged as a criminal assault if the perpetrator intended to commit the act.

Many of these situations involve the word of one person against another and whether the perception of what occurred was reasonable. An individual charged with sexual harassment should take the charges seriously and consult with a criminal defense lawyer if the situation involves criminal charges.

What to Do if You are Accused of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

If you are accused of sexual harassment, it is important to be careful what you say. If you are questioned by the supervisor or an HR representative, you should seek legal counsel before discussing the matter with your employer.

The person making the accusation has the burden of proof, whether it is a civil or criminal case. However, any remarks you make to peers, your employer or the accuser can be used against you. It’s crucial to keep notes by documenting events that are related to your case as you remember them and share them only with your attorney.

A defense against sexual harassment involves analyzing all aspects of the case.

The aspects of a valid sexual harassment claim include:

  • The person experienced sexual harassment based on gender or sex,
  • The harassment led to an offensive work environment or negative actions to the employee (such as being fired or demoted),
  • The employer is held liable for the sexual harassment that occurred.

The claimant must follow the procedural rules to meet the legal requirements of a sexual harassment claim. If these rules are not met, it may result in dismissal of a case.

To meet the requirements, the alleged victim must file a complaint with the EEOC or a state agency and be involved in the investigation. The claimant must wait until a “Right to Sue” letter is sent by the agency before filing a lawsuit. Time limits on filing a sexual harassment complaint are crucial. If a deadline is not followed, the case may be dismissed.

What Happens if a Person Files a False Accusation of Harassment?

If an employee files a sexual harassment claim that is false, they may face heavy court fines, an order of contempt, or possible criminal charges. If the alleged victim lied in court, they can also face a perjury charge.

Can I Sue for Damages Due to a False Sexual Harassment Claim?

If you are falsely accused of sexual harassment, it may be possible for you to obtain compensation for lost wages, job loss, and damage to your reputation (slander).

It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee who filed a sexual harassment claim. However, if the claim is found to be false, the employee can legally be fired.

Contact Experienced Nevada Sexual Harassment Defense Attorneys

If you are accused of sexual harassment, it’s important to seek professional legal help right away. Sexual harassment accusations can jeopardize your career, your family, and your reputation. You need attorneys who will fight for you and offer trusted legal guidance.

The lawyers at Adras & Altig have the experience necessary to assist you with your case. Our seasoned Law Vegas sex crimes attorneys will vigorously defend you against criminal sexual harassment allegations to protect your future. Contact the law firm of Adras & Altig at (702) 761-3871 for a free consultation. We are ready to listen to your side of the story and fight for you.

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