Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
In Massachusetts, sexual harassment is recognized as a form of discrimination based on sex and is strictly prohibited in the workplace. Sexual harassment can take many forms and occur at varying levels of intensity. Instances of sexual harassment may range from an isolated incidents involving a single comment or joke, all the way to the pervasive occurrence of inappropriate physical contact, comments, and gestures. Contrary to popular belief, an employee need not be subject to an adverse employment action, such as a demotion or termination, to have a legally cognizable claim for sexual harassment. It is enough if the sexually harassing conduct interferes with the victim’s ability to do her job. Claims of sexual harassment may also arise when a supervisor’s or co-worker’s actions create a hostile work environment.
It is important to note that sexual harassment claims are usually fact specific and often depend on the work environment and type of conduct involved. A remark or gesture that might be appropriate in one situation may be unlawful in another. For example, a gymnastics coach who guides a gymnast by the hips to assist her in jumping up to the uneven bars would likely not be engaging in sexual harassment, while a supervisor in an office building who grabbed an employee’s hips while she was using the copy machine would certainly be engaging in unlawful conduct. Similarly, a fashion designer who compliments a model on her outfit would probably not be engaging in sexual harassment, but a doctor who frequently comments on the physical appearance of his receptionist might be engaging in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment. As these examples illustrate, the context of the situation and the type of conduct involved often determines whether sexual harassment has occurred in the workplace.
Our attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of individuals who have faced sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are concerned that you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, or would like more information about the laws governing sexual harassment, please contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney at Sankey Law Offices today.