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Here’s what to do if you are sexually harassed at work

Published: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 @ 5:04 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 @ 5:04 PM

What to Do If You're Sexually Harassed at Work

Sexual harassment is not uncommon in the workplace. In a 2015 survey of 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees, Cosmopolitan found 1 in 3 women experienced sexual harassment at work at some point in their lives.

Here’s what you should know about sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor:

What is sexual harassment?

Generally, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

According to the Department of Labor, there are two forms of sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo: Involves an employment decision based on submission to the sexual harassment, such as promotion, assignment or keeping your job
  • Hostile work environment: Sexual harassment makes workplace hostile, intimidating, abusive or offensive

Are there state laws with more protections against sexual harassment in addition to Title VII?

Some states have adopted stronger protections. Harassment can include, but is not limited to:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances;
  • Requests for sexual favors;
  • Other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature;
  • Non-sexual but offensive remarks about a person’s sex.

Harassment is illegal when:

  • Conduct is unwelcome;
  • Conduct is “based on the victim’s protected status”;
  • Subjectively abusive to person affected;
  • “Severe and pervasive” enough to create a work environment that a “reasonable person” would find hostile.
(PeopleImages/Getty Images)

What factors are used to determine of harassment is “severe and pervasive” enough?

  • Frequency of unwelcome conduct;
  • Severity of conduct;
  • Whether conduct was physically threatening/humiliating or “mere offensive utterance”;
  • Where conduct “unreasonably” interfered with work performance;
  • Effect on employee’s psychological well-being;
  • Whether harasser was a superior at the organization.

From the Department of Labor:

Each factor is considered, but none are required or dispositive. Hostile work environment cases are often difficult to recognize, because the particular facts of each situation determine whether offensive conduct has crossed the line from “ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language . . . and occasional teasing,” to unlawful harassment.

However, the intent of the Department of Labor's Harassing Conduct Policy is to provide a process for addressing incidents of unwelcome conduct long before they become severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment under the law.

Does the gender of the victim or harasser matter?

No. Both the victim and harasser can be either a woman or a man — or both can be the same sex.

Does the title of the harasser matter?

No. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another department, a coworker, an employee of a separate employer, a client or a customer.

What about teasing?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are “not very serious.”

However, teasing becomes illegal when:

  • The behavior becomes frequent or severe;
  • The behavior creates a hostile or offensive work environment;
  • The behavior results in an adverse employment decision (victim is fired or demoted).

What if you weren’t directly harassed but you feel affected?

You do not have to be the victim of direct harassment to be affected by the offensive conduct. It is still considered sexual harassment, according to the EEOC.

What should you do if you experience sexual harassment?

Inform the harasser at once that the behavior is unwelcome, then directly use “any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.” 

This may include reaching out to your direct manager or employer or talking to your company’s human resources department. Check your employee handbook for more information.

If you really can’t find someone you trust, labor and law employment attorney Nannina Angioni suggests you contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Experts also recommend filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Find directions on the EEOC’s website.

You may also want to continue keeping a record of the discriminatory activity and seek support from friends and family.

(BURGER/Getty Images/Canopy)

What if speaking out is too difficult?

“Some victims will never report abuse, and they have that right,” psychologist Nekeshia Hammond told NBC News. “It’s a case by case thing, and sometimes there’s a reason for staying silent — if you feel your safety is threatened, or if you’re literally on the verge of having an emotional breakdown and will be unable to function. But you need to reach out to someone.”

Hammond recommends calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), which includes free services and confidential support.

Can staying silent work against me, legally?

According to the Department of Labor, “the department cannot correct harassing conduct if a supervisor, manager or other Department official does not become aware of it.”

In fact, when an employee “unreasonably fails to report harassing conduct,” the department can use this as a defense against a suit for harassment.

Additionally, if you file a complaint with the EEOC, it’s recommended you do so within 180 days of the discriminatory activity.

» RELATED: Woman says she lost work hours after reporting sexual harassment

How does the EEOC investigate allegations of sexual harassment?

The department looks at the circumstances of the misconduct, the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the incidents allegedly occurred.

“A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis,” the EEOC website states.

How can companies stop sexual harassment from occurring?

According to the EEOC, prevention is the best tool. Employers should be vocal about the intolerance of sexual harassment and establish a complaint and grievance system.

Learn more about workplace sexual harassment at dol.gov and eeoc.gov.

Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson says she's skipping Trump's State of the Union address

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 3:51 AM

President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.). (Photo credits: AP Photo/Evan Vucci, AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci, AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.). (Photo credits: AP Photo/Evan Vucci, AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Donald Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who were locked in a well-documented feud months ago over the latter’s account of a phone call between the president and the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnsonmay have a new reason to renew their spat.

>> On Rare.us: Frederica Wilson renews fight with John Kelly and President Trump

Wilson has announced two weeks ahead of Trump’s first State of the Union address that she will be following in the footsteps of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calf.) and others by ditching the occasion.

The Florida Democrat said “recent racist and incendiary remarks about Haiti and African nations” were the reason why she won’t be on hand for the speech.

“For the first time since I began serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, I will not be attending the president’s State of the Union address. I have no doubt that instead of delivering a message of inclusivity and an agenda that benefits all Americans, President Trump’s address will be full of innuendo, empty promises and lies,” she said in a statement, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

>> Read more trending news 

“During his disappointing and destructive first year in office, Mr. Trump has demeaned the presidency at every opportunity and cast doubt on our nation’s standing as a global leader. The United States’ reputation is smoldering in the ashes of his recent racist and incendiary remarks about Haiti and African nations,” she continued. “Many of his proposed domestic policies are harmful to people of color, low-income communities and the middle class. It would be an embarrassment to be seen with him at a forum that under any other president would be an honor to attend.”

As mentioned, Waters also announced that she will not be attending the SOTU.

Waters, who also called Trump a “racist,” went on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” to say Trump “does not deserve her attention.”

“Oh no, I didn’t go to the inauguration. I didn’t go to the joint session that was held after that; I don’t intend to go to this one. Why would I take my time to go and listen to a liar, to someone who lies in the face of facts?” she said.

“What does he have to say that I would be interested in?” she added.

>> On Rare.us: Sgt. La David Johnson’s mom claims Trump 'did disrespect' her son

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said he “wouldn’t be honest with [himself]” if he attends the SOTU, so he has also decided to boycott it.

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Florida boy dies of rabies after bat scratch, school officials say

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 1:41 AM

Bat in tree (stock photo). (Photo credit: Henry ... / Freeimages.com)
Henry ... / Freeimages.com
Bat in tree (stock photo). (Photo credit: Henry ... / Freeimages.com)(Henry ... / Freeimages.com)

A young boy died of rabies after being scratched by a bat, according to Christian Academy school officials in Eustis, Florida.

>> Watch the news report here

The school posted about the boy’s death on its website, saying that he attended the school in 2016.

The post said Ryker Roque “was a quiet boy adored by teachers and classmates.”

Henry Roque, Ryker's father, took a video of the two on a fishing trip and said they were as close as father and son could be. 

He shared pictures and videos of his son with WFTV to share with the world how much he loved his son.

As Ryker underwent an experimental procedure for the rabies infection, Henry held out hope, even as doctors told the family he had virtually no chance of surviving. 

>> Read more trending news 

"I've seen huge miracles before. And I went back on the bed and laid with him and held him and said, 'Ryker, miracles happen every day. I know you hear me,'" Henry said. 

Several weeks ago, Henry said he found a sick bat, which he did not know had rabies, and put it in a bucket, telling Ryker not to touch it.

But Ryker did touch it and was scratched by the bat – but seemed fine, school officials said.

A week later, the child lost use of his legs and “experienced confusion,” having hallucinations and convulsions.

Ryker was hospitalized and an experimental treatment was used, but he died Sunday.

>> On WFTV.com: Florida teacher donates kidney to student's mother

The school held a fundraiser to help the family with medical expenses.

"He was a very sweet boy. Everything he did was nice. The kids loved to play with him because he was the kindest kid," said Connor Jenkins, with the Christian Academy preschool. 

GoFundMe account was also set up for the family. 

Related

WATCH: Firefighter catches child thrown from burning building

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 1:13 AM

A man dropped the child from the third floor. (Credit: DeKalb County Fire and Rescue)
DeKalb County Fire and Rescue
A man dropped the child from the third floor. (Credit: DeKalb County Fire and Rescue)(DeKalb County Fire and Rescue)

Incredible video captured firefighters rescuing a child from a burning building in DeKalb County, Georgia.

>> Click here to watch

The helmet camera video, posted by DeKalb County Fire and Rescue, was taken at the Avondale Forest Apartments on Jan. 3.

The video shows a person on top of a ladder drop a child down to a firefighter as the flames roar around them.

The firefighter catches the child and quickly runs to safety. 

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

"Third-generation DCFR firefighter Capt. Scott Stroup can be seen catching one of the children that was dropped from the third-floor balcony. Great job by all hands operating on this fire as several lifesaving grabs were made that night," the department posted on Facebook.

An estimated 50 people were left without a place to live after the massive fire at the Decatur apartment complex.

Capt. Eric Jackson, with DeKalb County Fire and Rescue, told WSB-TV that four adults and eight children were hurt in the fire.

>> Read more trending news 

He said their injuries were minor and mostly related to smoke inhalation.

Firefighters kicked in doors and ushered out residents when they arrived on the scene, Jackson said. 

One of the victims told WSB-TV's Steve Gehlbach hearing the screams coming from the people trapped was the most frightening part of the fire for them.

“Jumping out of the building. Jumping out of their balconies. Someone said they threw their baby outside and fireman caught the baby,” they said.

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Texas man charged in plot to kill players, fans during Steelers game

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 9:59 AM

Yuttana Choochongkol. (Photo: Bexar County Sheriff's Office)
Yuttana Choochongkol. (Photo: Bexar County Sheriff's Office)

There was a slight scare ahead of Sunday’s Steelers game at Heinz Field after police arrested a man who allegedly threatened to kill players and fans at the game.

>> Read more trending news

Authorities arrested Yuttana Choochongkol, 40, who is from San Antonio, in Texas.

Investigators said the man made several threats online, sending them to the director of security at Heinz Field.

“The Steelers game will be packed, and that's when I plan on killing Steelers football players and fans before taking my own pitiful life," Choochongkol wrote.

The Steelers issued a statement regarding the threats. 

“We take all threats seriously and turned over information to the FBI and the City of Pittsburgh police,” said spokesman Burt Lauten. “We are thankful law enforcement was able to identify and track down the individual to make an arrest."