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Can Stereotypes Affect Sexual Harassment Claims?

September 28th, 2022
Delaware County Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Advocate for Workers Who Are Experiencing Sexual Harassment.

A study led by researchers at the University of Washington found that women who are “prototypical” (young, attractive, and look and act feminine) are more likely to be believed when making accusations of sexual harassment. It also revealed that “nonprototypical” women were perceived as not being as harmed by sexual harassment as prototypical women. In addition, the study’s 4,000 participants, given the same sexual harassment scenario, found the behavior to be sexually harassing of the prototypical woman but not always of the nonprototypical woman.

These research findings are troubling for several reasons. First, anyone can experience sexual harassment. The research suggests that women whose appearance is outside the prototype may have difficulty convincing an employer or court that they have been sexually harassed.

Second, the findings imply that nonprototypical women who claim sexual harassment are seen as less credible and less harmed by the behavior, and therefore, their perpetrators deserve less punishment.

Third, any bias in a sexual harassment claim can lead to injustice. Even though sexual harassment laws were designed to protect classes of people, biased perceptions can unfairly affect legal outcomes.

Any person who believes they have been sexually harassed should contact a lawyer for guidance. No one should be subjected to sexual harassment or not be believed.

​What Should I Do if I am Experiencing Sexual Harassment at Work?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 deemed sexual harassment a form of sexual discrimination. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. This includes federal, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor organizations. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII and workplace sexual harassment claims.

Anyone, regardless of their gender, race, or appearance, who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace should take the following steps:

  • Confront the harasser and tell them to stop the behavior, even if the harasser is a superior. Say “no” to requests or demands of a sexual nature. State that the behavior is uncomfortable and unwelcome.
  • Accurately document the dates, times, frequency, and nature of the harassment.
  • Report the behavior to company authorities.
  • Understand the company’s policies on sexual harassment claims, employee rights and protections, and the process for resolving sexual harassment complaints.
  • Cooperate in the employer’s investigation, and share documentation and evidence.
  • Document in writing any discussions with HR, supervisors, or other company authorities about the harassment.
  • If the employer responds unsatisfactorily or does not respond at all, file a claim with the EEOC with help from a lawyer.

A lawyer who understands sexual harassment laws can:

  • Help ensure justice and fair compensation.
  • File the claim with EEOC, and guide you through the process.
  • Negotiate a settlement with an employer.
  • Prepare a strong lawsuit if necessary.

Delaware County Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Advocate for Workers Who Are Experiencing Sexual Harassment

If you believe you are experiencing workplace sexual harassment, contact one of our Delaware County employment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. The sooner we are involved, the better we can guide you through the legal process. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey and Philadelphia, we serve clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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