The law forbids many types of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, including sexual harassment. Over the last couple of years, this type of workplace harassment has become more widely known, but that does not mean sexual harassment is a recent phenomenon. Sexual harassment has been prevalent in workplaces for decades. Society is just now realizing how often it happens and reckoning with how to address this problem, especially in the technology industry.
Male workers have historically dominated certain industries. Technology is one of the most heavily male-dominated industries. Quite often, however, women are not seen as equals in this industry. Approximately 48 percent of women who work in the technology industry have received unwanted sexual advances, according to a new report by Women Who Tech. This includes female employees, but it also includes female founders.
To qualify as sexual harassment that is prohibited by law, the act must fall into a legal category. It is important to know where an act might fall so that the victim can choose the right path for legal recourse. Victims of sexual harassment have legal rights and may be able to collect compensation from the person who sexually harassed them.
What is Quid Pro Quo?
Quid pro quo translates to “what for what” or “this for that.” This means one employee does something for another employee expecting a sexual encounter as payment. It should not be a surprise that this kind of blatant harassment is against the law.
The most common example of quid pro quo sexual harassment is when a boss tells a subordinate employee that they will get a raise but only if they agree to a sexual act. That act may be actual intercourse or it may simply be exposing body parts. It might even be as subtle as making a female employee dress a certain way.
Quid pro quo is a common form of workplace sexual harassment against female employees. For whatever reason, the men feel like they have dominance over women and can act this way without repercussions. Women have the right to fight back against this harassment. If a female employee thinks they may be the victim of sexual harassment in their tech workplace, they need to speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Harassment is often covered up by being described as a fast-paced work environment. When a female quits a tech job, it is often said that they simply could not take the stress, but that is nothing more than victim blaming. The root of the cause may be a toxic work environment.
A hostile work environment is the other type of prohibited sexual harassment in the workplace. Hostile work environments leave employees mentally drained. It may be hard to go to work every day. Whether or not an environment rises to the level of the legal standard of hostile work environment depends on several factors:
- The harassment must have occurred because of the victim’s gender.
- The harassment must not have been welcomed behavior.
- The harassment would offend a reasonable person.
- The harassment must be severe enough to create a hostile work environment.
The second bullet point above is one that many men in tech use to justify their behaviors. They claim the woman asked for the sexual advances or that the women really wanted it. This victim blaming is unacceptable.
When a woman is sexually harassed in the workplace, in that very moment when it is happening, she does not have to refuse the advances. There are many reasons why a victim would not refuse sexual advances in the moment. One of the biggest reasons is that her job might be at risk if she does refuse. That is a terrible position to be in, and failing to refuse sexual advances in the moment does not prohibit a victim from bringing a sexual harassment claim after the fact. However, a case might be stronger if the victim refused in the moment, but that is not a requirement.
Many Women Feel They Have to Accept Sexual Harassment
Many women in the tech field simply feel that sexual harassment is part of their workday. They fear their job is at stake if they do not play along. There is no workplace in which a woman should have to accept sexual harassment as just part of her job.
Sexual harassment victims have legal protections. While it is incredibly difficult to come forward, women continuing to do so is the only way workplaces will change. Understanding their legal rights may help victims feel more comfortable. Women do not have to take sexual harassment as just part of their job, and they can fight back, with the law on their side.
The Law and Process
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes sexual harassment illegal. Every employer should have a process for reporting violations of this law. At the very least, going to a company’s Human Resources (HR) department should be clear to all employees.
Simply alleging a violation of Title VII, however, does not mean the offending employee will be held accountable. This is where it becomes important for companies to have a clear process for responding to such serious allegations. If a company does not take a sexual harassment complaint seriously, that could put the company in legal jeopardy along with the offending employee. Businesses have an obligation to protect their employees, and not investing a legitimate sexual harassment claim is a clear violation of that obligation.
At a minimum, the sexual harassment victim should report their experience to HR and follow up after a few days. The victim also may need to tell the offending employee they do not wish to engage with them and work with management to help them continue to do their job effectively.
In every instance, the sexual harassment victim should document the inappropriate behavior. Keep a record, even if it is just a handwritten note of every conversation had with HR, with the offending employee, and with any company investigators. Keeping accurate records will help the victim maintain their case by being able to show the steps they took and conversations they had.
If a company does not take a sexual harassment complaint seriously, the victim may need to make a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). One purpose of the EEOC is to investigate and help resolve sexual harassment violations in the workplace.
Sexual harassment victims may also choose to sue the offending employee and the company. While many women want to avoid this step, it may be the best option to get a positive resolution. For the victim and for future women in the workplace, suing a company may create changes within the company.
Montgomery County Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Offer Support to Tech Workers Subjected to Sexual Harassment
Women are especially vulnerable to harassment in the tech industry. If you are facing a hostile work environment fueled by sexual harassment, you may be able to do something about it. Take action by speaking with an experienced and compassionate Montgomery County sexual harassment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. today. We may be able to help you find a suitable resolution. Contact us online or at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.