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Sexual Harassment is Not Limited to Words

Sexual harassment is an unlawful form of sex discrimination that can occur in the workplace, and it is prohibited under both federal and state law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace under federal law, and both Massachusetts law and Connecticut law have provisions prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. While many people assume that sexual harassment involves statements made in the workplace about a person’s sex, or concerning sexual favors or advances, it is critical to understand that sexual harassment is not limited to words under federal or state law. To be sure, sexual harassment can be verbal or physical in form, and it “does not have to be of a sexual nature,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

Our Massachusetts and Connecticut employment discrimination attorneys want to provide you with more information about the forms sexual harassment can take so that you can take action if you are subjected to it or if it occurs in your workplace.

Sexual Harassment Can Be Verbal or Physical in Nature

Federal and state laws in Massachusetts and Connecticut make clear that sexual harassment in the workplace can be verbal or physical in nature. Referring to Title VII prohibitions against sexual harassment on the job under federal law, the EEOC explains that sexual harassment may include “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

Massachusetts law clarifies that both forms of sexual harassment at work—quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment—can involve more than words. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination explains that quid pro quo harassment under Massachusetts law can include “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct, which the submission or rejection thereof become the basis for employment decisions or a term or condition of employment.” A hostile work environment due to sexual harassment can occur under Massachusetts law because of “sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance…”

Similarly, under Connecticut law, sexual harassment can involve “any unwelcome sexual advances or request for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature” in specific circumstances.

Common Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

To demonstrate that sexual harassment can be more than words, we want to provide a few common examples of sexual harassment:

  • Making statements or comments of a sexual nature in person or through electronic communication;
  • Unwanted touching of a sexual nature;
  • Displaying images of a sexual nature in the workplace, such as nude images; or
  • Making lewd gestures.

Contact Our Employment Discrimination Attorneys Serving Clients in Connecticut and Massachusetts

Sexual harassment can cause significant harm to the person who is the target of the harassment, and it can create a hostile work environment that is damaging to other employees in the workplace who must witness the harassment or acknowledge that it is occurring. Whether you experienced verbal or physical sexual harassment at work yourself, or you have been forced to do your job in a hostile work environment due to verbal or physical sexual harassment, you could be eligible to file a complaint. 

Employers have a duty to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and failure to do so can result in liability. Our experienced Massachusetts and Connecticut employment discrimination lawyers can provide you with additional information and can evaluate your case for you today. Contact Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC online or reach us by phone at (413) 785-1400.