Sexual Harassment at Work: Breaking the Silence. Part I of a Series


At Casey Law Offices, S.C., we focus exclusively on prosecuting injury claims to ensure negligent individuals and businesses are held accountable for irresponsible behavior resulting in injury, and so those impacted are fairly compensated. We represent Wisconsinites who have suffered a variety of injuries, including those related to sexual harassment.

In our Multi-Part Series “Sexual Harassment at Work: Breaking the Silence,” we take a look at the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. We clearly define sexual harassment and explain rights and responsibilities of victims and their employers. The series also explores how the law protects victims by helping to determine damages and fair compensation to ensure justice prevails for the innocent and harassers are held accountable.

Part I: From Hollywood to the Beltway, Victims of Sexual Harassment and Bullying Speak Up

Widespread allegations of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct triggered public reporting of other harassment allegations that are now toppling some of the most powerful figures in many industries.

No industry is immune to sexual harassment. The issue remains a widespread problem, affecting women in every kind of workplace setting, and at every level of employment. Research indicates that one-quarter of all women have experienced workplace sexual harassment.1 Yet, so many instances do not get reported. Seventy percent of respondents in a recent survey said they did not report the harassment they experienced at work to their employer.2

Strength in Numbers

The latest rash of allegations is terribly disturbing. At the same time, it is creating a groundswell of support for victims, encouraging more and more women to report instances of sexual harassment. It is hoped that this increased awareness of the prevalence of the problem will cause bullies and abusers to rethink their behavior in the workplace. Certainly, it will cause employers to review their HR policies, office culture and clearly articulate sexual harassment policies for workers. Bullies and abusers beware: Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.

Understanding Sexual Harassment

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, sexual harassment policy in the workforce was defined much differently than it is today. Mad Men, the AMC TV series, did a realistic job of portraying men and women in the workforce and how they interacted with each other. Pats on the behind were common, as were crude remarks.

Unfortunately, many still think sexual harassment is simply defined as inappropriate touching and vulgar comments.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Engaging in such conduct is made an implicit or explicit term or condition of employment. Example: A newly hired machine operator is told sexual jokes, touching and display of nude posters are just part of factory life and she should try to ignore it.
  • Acceptance or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision affecting an employee. Example: A manager tells a worker applying for a promotion that the job would be his if he just ‘treated her right.’
  • The conduct interferes with an employee's work or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Example: One worker experiences repeated advances from another, asking her for dates or ‘just to go out for drinks after work.’ The worker says she isn’t interested, but the co-worker won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Furthermore, the DWD defines conduct as unwelcome when an employee doesn’t solicit or invite it and when the employee regards the conduct as undesirable or offensive.

Because sexual attraction is a normal factor in employee interactions, the distinction between advances that are invited, uninvited-but-welcome, offensive-but-tolerated and flatly rejected may be difficult to discern. This distinction is important because conduct is unlawful when it is unwelcome.

Of course, harassment is in the eye of the beholder. What one worker might consider acceptable, another may consider offensive. The U.S. Supreme Court has adopted the “reasonable person” standard in determining if conduct is harassing.

Our legal team at Casey Law Offices can help victims understand what the courts consider when determining “reasonable.” We are prepared to help victims determine what a reasonable financial settlement looks like in cases of sexual harassment. We investigate the situation, build your case, and work hard to help you seek compensation for any lost wages and pain and suffering. With decades of legal experience, our team will guide you through the process and aggressively uphold your right to a financial settlement in court.

Contact our office today for a free consultation.

Next in the Series:Drawing the Line for Bullies and Abusers in Wisconsin

  1. Langer Research, ABC News/Washington Post Poll: One in Four U.S. Women Reports Workplace Harassment (Nov. 16, 2011).
  2. Huffington Post & YouGov, Poll of 1,000 Adults in United States on Workplace Sexual Harassment (Aug. 2013).
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