Serving Clients in Rhode Island & Massachusetts

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive issue that affects countless individuals, altering their professional and personal lives. This misconduct spans a range of behaviors, from unwanted advances to coercion and threats, creating hostile environments that undermine dignity and safety. Recognizing the signs and knowing your rights are crucial steps toward addressing and preventing such violations. Herman Law Group is dedicated to providing robust support and legal guidance to those confronting sexual harassment, making sure your voice is heard and your rights are protected.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment encompasses unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that disrupts the workplace or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. This definition spans a broad spectrum of behaviors, from explicit propositions and inappropriate touching to the dissemination of sexually explicit materials and suggestive comments. Harassment can occur in various contexts, including in-person interactions, digital communications, and social settings related to work. Sexual harassment is unfortunately more common than one might expect—according to the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, some studies suggest that up to 40-70% of women and 10-20% of men have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Understanding these behaviors is the first step toward addressing and preventing sexual harassment, ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for everyone.

Legal Framework and Rights

The legal framework surrounding sexual harassment is anchored in both federal law and specific state statutes. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual harassment, covering employers with 15 or more employees. Rhode Island law further extends these protections, offering recourse to individuals in smaller workplaces as well. Employees are entitled to a workplace free from sexual harassment, and employers are legally obligated to take prompt and effective action to investigate and resolve complaints. 

Victims have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation or with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. Importantly, these laws also protect employees from retaliation for reporting harassment or participating in an investigation. 

Recognizing Harassment in the Workplace

Recognizing harassment in the workplace involves being aware of various behaviors that constitute sexual harassment. It’s not limited to overtly sexual acts but includes unwelcome comments, jokes, gestures, or physical touches that create a hostile or offensive work environment. Harassment can also manifest in non-verbal ways, such as displaying sexually explicit images or sending suggestive emails. The key is the unwelcomeness of the behavior and its effect on the work environment or an individual’s job performance. 

One common form of sexual harassment is the creation of a hostile work environment. This occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating or offensive work setting. On the other hand, quid pro quo harassment occurs when a job benefit, such as a promotion or raise, is directly tied to the acceptance of sexual advances or favors. Both forms of harassment are illegal and undermine the integrity of the workplace. Being able to identify these behaviors is the first step towards addressing them.

First Steps to Take If You’re Harassed

If you find yourself a victim of sexual harassment, taking immediate steps is essential for your protection and to address the issue effectively. Communicate to the harasser that their behavior is unwelcome and must stop if you feel safe doing so. Document every incident in detail, including dates, times, locations, what was said or done, and any witnesses. This documentation can be useful in any future legal or disciplinary proceedings. 

Reporting Sexual Harassment

Reporting sexual harassment is an important step toward stopping the misconduct and holding the harasser accountable. Begin by following your employer’s established procedures for reporting harassment, which typically involve notifying your supervisor, human resources department, or a specific harassment officer. It’s crucial to provide a detailed written account of the incidents to support your complaint. If the internal reporting does not lead to a satisfactory resolution, or if you experience retaliation, you can escalate the matter by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. These organizations can investigate your claims, offer mediation services, and, if necessary, take legal action on your behalf.

Contact Our Experienced Sexual Harassment Attorney

Herman Law Group can advocate for those facing sexual harassment, offering personalized legal strategies and steadfast support. Our experience with these types of employment law cases enables us to build a strong case and offer you dedicated representation. If you’re navigating these challenges, we encourage you to contact us. Together, we can seek justice and restore your peace of mind.

Herman Law Group is based in Providence but offers its services nationwide. We help clients throughout Rhode Island, including Bristol County, Kent County, Washington County, Providence County, Warwick, & Cranston. Additionally, the firm its extends expertise in Attleboro and across the rest of Massachusetts.