Legally, there are two types of sexual harassment:
Quid pro quo harassment-one thing in return for
another. (“You must sleep with me if you want a promotion.”)
Hostile work environment harassment. (A lunch room decorated with centerfolds.)
The differences are spelled out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)-a federal government body that oversees and coordinates all federal regulations, practices and policies affecting equal employment opportunity.
In 1980, the EEOC issued guidelines which define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that:
Are made a term or condition of employment.
Are used as the basis for employment decisions.
Create hostile and offensive working conditions.
QUID PRO QUO HARASSMENT
Quid pro quo harassment is relatively easy to understand. It means that the harasser is offering the woman something in return for sexual favors-one thing in return for another. That something may be a raise, promotion or overtime, or it may be a promise that the woman won’t be fired if she plies. If the behavior implies an offer, it is an example of quid pro quo harassment, whether the woman complies or refuses.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can take many forms:
An unwanted look, pat or squeeze.
Suggestive remarks, lewd jokes, references to women’s bodies.
Conversation depicting women as sex objects.
Persistent requests for a date.
A man repeatedly brushing against a woman’s body.
Catching a woman alone for a kiss or pinch as she walks by.
Pornographic pictures left in a desk or tool box.
Work areas decorated with centerfolds or other sexually explicit posters or pictures.Sexual harassment can include a proposition, threat of rape or rape-or it can be more subtle. Whatever form it takes, harassment has two key components: it is unwanted and it affects the victim’s job.
HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT HARASSMENT
Defining a hostile environment allows for a fair amount of interpretation both in the courts and in the workplace. Some people think of it as “creeping harassment” because it usually creeps up on the victim. At first, the woman may try to shrug it off. But then it continues to the point where she feels uncomfortable, and begins to dread coming to work.
Hostile environment discrimination is broader than quid pro quo harassment for several reasons. First, a hostile environment can be created not only by a supervisor, but also by co- workers or even customers. Second, the woman does not need to prove economic loss, such as loss of employment or failure to get a promotion.
Because it is so broad, hostile environment harassment is usually difficult for people to understand. Most of us think that sexual harassment on the job puts pressure on the victim because her livelihood is at stake. But the co-worker accused of creating a hostile environment cannot fire anyone. He cannot put a negative letter in anyones file or cut anyone’s pay. And yet, he can make a victim’s worklife impossible.
The 1986 Supreme Court case of Mentor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the first sexual harassment case to go before the nation’s highest court, clarified the legal definition of sexual harassment. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court recognized “hostile environment” harassment and held that it was unlawful to require “a man or woman [to] run a gauntlet of sexual abuse in return for the privilege of being allowed to work.”
LAWS ARE NOT ENOUGH
The fact that sexual harassment remains widespread suggests that laws are not enough. Researchers believe that more than 98 percent of women who experience sexual harassment do not file formal complaints. They are afraid to come forward. The two primary reasons for this? Fear of retaliation and fear of not being believed.
The remainder of this booklet discusses steps Teamster members and local unions can take to remedy this situation, and to provide victims of sexual harassment the support they need.
There are several options for dealing with sexual harassment cases. These include:
Resolving cases informally.
Using the grievance procedure.
Filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Filing lawsuits against the harasser and/or against the employer.
Filing internal union charges against the harasser.
Several of these options can, if necessary, be undertaken at the same time.
Appendix 1 at the end of this booklet explains the steps involved in filing an EEOC complaint , and the timelines to follow Chapters 3 and 4 emphasize steps the union should take when handling a sexual harassment grievance and when trying to prevent future problems.
Legal Framework Behind Sexual Harassment law
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended in 1991). The Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and sex. Sexual harassment is considered to be a form of sex discrimination.
Title VII applies to public employers and to private employers having 15 or more workers. The 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act provide victims of sexual harassment the right to a jury hearing. Likewise, they enable the victim to sue for damages for pain and suffering. Some state laws provide broader protection against sexual harassment, including coverage of workplaces with fewer than 15 workers.