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Incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace on the rise

West Virginia employment lawyerA variety of stresses at work typically come with the job, but sexual harassment shouldn’t be one of them. Unfortunately, incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace are on the rise, including here in West Virginia.

According to Market Watch, the increase began around October 2017, when the #metoo movement gained momentum. While sexual harassment isn’t a good thing, a rise in complaints shows people are taking a stand against their harassers.

Reports indicate the total number of harassment claims in the workplace are decreasing, but the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says sexual harassment complaints are increasing.

The EEOC received 7,609 sexual-harassment complaints during the last fiscal year, up 13.6 percent from the previous year, even though reports of all types of workplace harassment declined, according to data released earlier this month. Workers filed 76,418 allegations overall of workplace harassment, a drop of 9.3 percent on the previous year.

How prevalent is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of ways, according to EEOC.

The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex from the harasser. The harasser may be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a nonemployee, such as a vendor or customer.

The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone impacted by the offensive conduct. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

Additionally, specifically in West Virginia, conduct is deemed to be unlawful sexual harassment when it:

  • Makes submission to a request for sexual favors or a sexual advance a term or condition of employment
  • Unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment

The Human Rights Commission considers the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature and context in which the alleged incidents occurred, on a case-by-case basis in determining whether the alleged conduct constitutes sexual harassment.

The commission also examines whether the sexual harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive, including whether it involved:

  • Unwanted physical touching.
  • Offensive or threatening verbal abuse.
  • Unwelcome and consistent sexual innuendo or physical contact.
  • The frequency of unwelcome and offensive encounters is also taken into account, as well as whether other employees suffered harassment.
  • Hostile or physically aggressive behavior that includes unwanted sexual conduct also can be considered sexual harassment if it was a form of gender-based discrimination.

No one should feel unsafe at work. The attorneys at Klie Law Offices in West Virginia have the experience and legal knowledge to help if you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Contact us today to learn more.

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