Hostile-environment sexual harassment is subject of EEOC lawsuit

Some Wisconsin residents might not be aware that sexual harassment in any form is not only impolite and in poor taste, but it is also very clearly illegal. When it comes to employment, sexual harassment is generally divided into two categories: quid pro quo and hostile environment.

Quid pro quo is a situation in which a person is asked to fulfill a sexual demand in order to avoid poor treatment at work or to obtain favorable treatment. For example, a person might be asked to perform a sex act in order to receive a raise, or in order to avoid being fired. Hostile work environment sexual harassment takes place when an employee is subjected to generally unwelcome sexual behavior or communications in the workplace. Many people tend to be less aware of their employment rights when it comes to hostile work environment sexual harassment.

In a case that was just settled in Alabama, a trucking company had been accused of subjecting the sole female employee in its office to a sexually hostile work environment. The environment was said to include vulgar comments about women and sexually explicit images. The conditions were so poor that the woman ultimately resigned.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision sued the employer on the woman’s behalf, and the employer has now agreed to a $15,000 settlement as well as a three-year consent decree. The decree requires the trucking company to implement policies that will prevent sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Many employees or employers might assume that when a woman chooses to work in a male-dominated field like trucking, she is simply going to have to accept that she may find the workplace to be unfriendly, uncomfortable or even offensive. This, however, is not true. Victims of sexually hostile work environments do have the right to pursue legal recourse regardless of the industry.

As the district director for the EEOC’s district office in Birmingham, Delner Franklin-Thomas, explained: “A woman who chooses to work in a male-dominated industry or workplace does not give up her right to be free from secual harssment.”

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Joe-Ryan Enterprises to Pay $15,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit,” May 28, 2013

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