What is Sexual Harrassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates federal law and also violates many state and city laws. No person or occupation is immune from sexual harassment. The purpose of most laws that prohibit sexual harassment is to protect workers – both female and male – regardless of whether the worker is highly paid or not and regardless of the gender of the harasser.

The Impact of Sexual Harassment 

Sexual harassment causes real harm, both monetary (losing pay, a promotion, or other harm to one’s career path), and emotional which can also have a serious and negative impact on the employee’s physical and emotional health. Another kind of harm is called “emotional injury” or “pain and suffering” and the emotional effects frequently reported as a result of sexual harassment include anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, loss of appetite, and other neurological and health disorders. In some instances, there has been a link between sexual harassment and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There are many different ways for a victim of sexual harassment to respond to the emotional injury. One way is to seek psychological help. There may also be a natural desire to do things like trying to escape the harassing behavior by taking sick leave or leave without pay, or transferring to a less desirable assignment or job, or even quitting altogether. These are not necessarily in your best interest and might even prejudice your legal rights. You should seek legal advice before you do any of them so that you know what your options are and the risks and benefits of choosing one of the various courses of action available to you.

There are legal protections and many resources available to you. An attorney can advise you on your legal protections and help you find the resources you need.

What is Gender Discrimination*

Sex or gender discrimination is treating individuals differently in their employment specifically because an individual is a woman or a man. If you have been rejected for employment, fired, or otherwise harmed in employment because of your sex or gender, then you may have suffered sex or gender discrimination.

In everyday language as well as in the law, the terms "gender" and "sex" are used inter-changeably, but the two terms have different meanings. Social scientists use the term "sex" to refer to a person's biological or anatomical identity as male or female, while reserving the term "gender" for the collection of characteristics that are culturally associated with maleness or femaleness. Discrimination is generally illegal regardless of whether it is based on sex, or gender, or both sex and gender.

Here are some examples of potentially unlawful sex/gender discrimination that women, for example, may face:

Hiring/Firing/Promotions: You apply for a job for which you have experience and excellent qualifications, but you are not hired because some of the company's long-time clients are more comfortable dealing with men; you are told that you are laid off due to company cutbacks and reorganization, while men in the same job and with less seniority than you keep their jobs; you have worked for your company for several years, receiving exemplary reviews and an employee-of-the-year award, yet each of the five times you have applied for promotions, the positions you applied for are instead filled by less qualified men.

Pay: You worked your way up from the position of cook's helper to chef. A male chef with similar training and work experience was recently hired, and you find out that he will be paid more than you; you are a top salesperson for your company, but are moved to a less desirable territory while a man with much lower sales is given your territory and client base, enabling him to make much more in commissions than you will make for several years.

Job Classification: You work at a company for four years and put in many hours of overtime. After you return from having a baby, you tell your employer that you will not be able to put in as many hours of overtime. Your position is then changed to a lower level and you get less pay, while male coworkers in similar positions are allowed to cut back their overtime hours for personal reasons without any changes to their positions or pay.
Benefits: Your company's health insurance policy does not cover your spouse, because it is assumed that he will have his own benefits, while your male coworkers have their wives covered by the policy. Because your husband is between jobs, you have to pay increased health benefits on his behalf that your coworkers do not pay for their wives.

If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered sex or gender discrimination.

*From http://www.workplacefairness.org/sexual-gender-discrimination#1

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