What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace


Sexual harassment in the workplace includes same sex harassment. Attorney Travis Hollifield explains what options you may consider if you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. 


Kelly: Okay, my question has to deal with my supervisor who happens to be a female. I feel like she's making unwanted advances toward me, and I'm unsure if there's anything I can do about it.

Attorney Tom Olsen: What would you recommend, Travis?

Attorney Travis Hollifield: Hi, Kelly, and thanks for your call. The answer is, in a word, yes, there is something you can do. In order to preserve any rights you may have in the workplace with respect to what you perceive to be sexual harassment, you have to complain about it. You have to object in some way to your employer. I don't know if your employer is big enough to have a human resources department or if it's a smaller operation, but if it's a situation where there's a human resources department, you would definitely want to make an objection to an HR representative and indicate that whoever this individual is that's making you feel uncomfortable, that you go on record that you are feeling uncomfortable and describe in particular detail about what exactly the individual is doing that's making you feel uncomfortable. In that way, that will preserve your rights moving forward if it does not get fixed.

Attorney Tom Olsen: It's just out of curiosity Travis. If Kelly came to you and she described this harassment that she's receiving, would you might say, "Kelly, that is so subtle. I hear what you're saying, but a blink of the eye is really not enough." would you ever go back to Kelly and say, "Kelly, you need to go back and see if they could be a little more obvious about their sexual harassment so we have more concrete to pursue."

Attorney Travis Hollifield: Certainly, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, I have to turn away a lot of potential clients that have complaints that just don't rise to the legal level of what sexual harassment constitutes which include either a severe instance, a single severe instance of harassment or a pervasive environment. Pervasive meaning over time, the alleged harasser is just not getting the message and therefore, that can constitute sexual harassment as well.

Attorney Tom Olsen: And then what happens if you're the big guy, the big boss, the main boss, is the guy that's doing the harassing. Who do you complain to them?

Attorney Travis Hollifield: If that's the individual that's the alleged harasser, you really don't have an opportunity to object unless there is a human resources department that exists as an ombudsman between employers and employees. So even if the president and the CEO of a company that has a Human Resources Division is the one doing the harassing, and even though you may fear retaliation like losing your job for rejecting, the only way that you're going to preserve your right is to go ahead and object.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Thank you, Travis. Hey, folks. My name is Tom Olsen. The name of the show is Olsen on Law.