Philadelphia Employment Law News

Prevent Sexual Harassment During the Holidays

With the holidays coming up, a little bit of egg-nog and some mistletoe can go a long way. All the way to a sexual harassment lawsuit, that is.

So with the holidays approaching, what can employers do to protect themselves from these lawsuits? And what do employees need to know about what is appropriate and what constitutes sexual harassment?

Let's first look at the employee perspective. How can you, as an employee, recognize sexual harassment at work and what can you do about it?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted and unwelcome sexual advance or conduct of a sexual nature which reasonably interferes with the performance of a person's job or creates an unhealthy work environment.

Sexual harassment can arise in a situation where someone conditions a job or benefit on the tolerance of unwanted sexual behavior. It can also arise in situations where a hostile work environment is created as a result of the conduct. This depends largely on the type of conduct and how offensive the conduct was, along with several other circumstantial factors.

In the end, it boils down to whether the employee-victim believed that the conduct was hostile, abusive, or offensive. It's also essential to ask whether a reasonable person in the same position would have believed that the conduct was hostile, abusive, or offensive.

Now, what can an employer do to prevent sexual harassment this holiday season?

Employers need to be aware of the laws governing sexual harassment in the workplace. For starters, any employer with over fifteen employees will be subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Remember that an employer in such a case will be liable, even if the sexual harassment is committed by a coworker and not by the employer himself. So it's wise for employers to take precautions and educate employees on sexual harassment periodically.

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