Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment New HampshireSexual Harassment in the workplace has recently been the focus of intense media attention. Sexual misconduct allegations against a number of prominent politicians and celebrities, propelled by the rise of the “#MeToo” social media movement, has generated significant workplace questions and concerns in New Hampshire for employers and employees.

Some of the common questions are as follows:

What is the definition of “Sexual Harassment”?

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or sexual conduct that creates an offensive or hostile work environment. Because this definition includes certain subjective standards (using words like “unwelcome” and “offensive”), each case can be different. For this reason, determining if sexual harassment has taken place requires a close review of the facts and circumstances surrounding each specific case.

What are some common examples of Sexual Harassment in the workplace?

Some conduct, such as making requests for sexual favors or forcing someone to engage in any sexual activity, will obviously be considered as sexual harassment. However, because sexual harassment claims are often very subjective there are many shades of grey. Some common examples of conduct that is likely to be considered sexual harassment are:

– Openly discussing another person’s appearance, including discussion of someone’s physique or clothing;
– Making jokes that are sexual in nature, or disseminating materials containing lewd or sexual jokes;
– Touching another person, including rubbing, patting, or placing your hand on another person, in a way that can be considered sexual;
– Sending, forwarding or soliciting sexually suggestive letters, notes, emails, or images.

How should an employer address a complaint of Sexual Harassment?

Have a good sexual harassment policy and provide in company employment practices training. Many workplaces have a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment, while other employers still have no written policy. A clear and strong written policy prohibiting sexual harassment and defining the consequences to those employees who would violate those policies is a good first step for employers.

If you have questions about whether your company policy regarding sexual harassment is adequate, you should contact an attorney who practices in Employment Law. They should also be able to provide resources to HR firms or other entities that provide appropriate workplace training.

What should an employee do if s/he experience Sexual Harassment?

Just as an employer should look to the company policies to see how to address a complaint of sexual harassment, an employee should look to the company policies to see who s/he should file a complaint with. Typically, the employer’s policies will say whom you should contact to report the harassment. Notifying your employer that there is a problem regarding sexual harassment is the first step towards preventing this conduct in the future.

Author: Dan Hakansson

If you believe that you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace or you are a small business looking for assistance to develop a policy prohibiting harassment consider contacting the attorneys at Welts, White, & Fontaine. Please contact us by clicking here or by calling (603) 883-0797 to assist with your matter. Attorney Dan Hakansson would be happy to discuss your matter.

This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.