Workplace sexual harassment refers to situations of unwanted sexual advances or conduct that happen between coworkers in the workplace. These actions will often interfere with a person’s job and create a work environment that is intimidating, hostile or offensive.

Sexual harassment is very serious and can have very negative and emotional effects. Keep in mind that while harassers can face serious consequences for their actions, the employer and victim may also face consequences.

What are Some Consequences the Sexual Harasser may Face?

If someone engages in sexual harassment that is reported, the harasser could face serious consequences. For example, the harasser could be reprimanded, demoted or terminated. In addition, if the conduct rises to the level of sexual assault, the harasser may face criminal charges.

What are Some Consequences the Employer may Face?

Additionally, if an employer is informed of sexual harassment in the workplace and ignores the complain or does not take appropriate action, consequences will likely follow. For example, the victim of the harassment may file a charge against the employer with the Equal Opportunity Employment Center (EEOC) and corresponding state agency.

This could result in an order requiring policy change or even a civil lawsuit costing the employer time and money. In addition, if the company is large the sexual harassment may receive news coverage -- especially if more than one employee has reported incidents of harassment. This could cause the employer to carry a stigma in the professional realm.

What are Some Consequences the Sexual Harassment Victim may Face?

Unfortunately, victims of sexual harassment often faces consequences for reporting the incident. Some examples of consequences victims may face are:

  • Demotion;
  • Termination;
  • Loss of benefits;
  • Decrease in pay;
  • Being passed up for a promotion; and
  • Constructive discharge, which refers to a situation where an employer transfers an employee or makes the working conditions so unbearable, forcing their resignation.

If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace and any of the and any of the above happens, you can argue that you are being punished for reporting the incident.

This is considered retaliation by your employer, which is illegal. If this occurs, you can sue your employer for retaliatory discharge, which is considered a type of wrongful termination.

Do I Need to Contact an Attorney?

If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace and wish to take legal action, you should contact a local employment attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights and the next steps that you should take.

An attorney can also represent you in any legal proceedings that occur. Additionally, employers should also obtain legal counsel to review their sexual harassment policies and training requirements, as well as represent them if any legal proceedings are filed.