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Sexual
Harassment

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and a wide range of other verbal or physical conduct.  This kind of harassment is unlawful conduct that no employee should have to endure in the workplace and can make any person’s life intolerable.  If you have been harmed by sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Yezbak Law for assistance.

Overview of Workplace Sexual Harassment in Tennessee

Federal and Tennessee law prohibits severe or pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is one of the most common and difficult employment situations to navigate, especially when the harasser is your boss. You want to report the misconduct, but you are afraid of being fired or otherwise retaliated against. The law is on your side, and it’s time to fight back.

Common examples of workplace sexual harassment include:

  • Invading of personal space including persistent leering or staring

  • Frequent comments about your appearance/attractiveness

  • Sexually explicit text messages or e-mails

  • Sexual “jokes” or innuendos or “gag” gifts of a sexual nature

  • Displaying sexual materials

  • Solicitation of explicit pictures

  • Repeated requests for a romantic date

  • Asking about your sexual history

  • Sexual coercion such as threats or pressure for sexual favors

  • Criminal sexual conduct including physical assault and rape

  • Harassment based on your LGBTQ status

Two Types of Sexual Harassment Claims

The law recognizes two kinds of sexual harassment claims: (1) Quid Pro Quo and (2) Hostile Work Environment. You should consult with an experienced sexual harassment attorney to know your legal rights and understand your potential claims.

1. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo (“this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when your job is dependent on your acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual advances. In other words, your boss attempts to get sexual favors from you in exchange for your career advancement. If you do not submit, your career suffers. Sometimes, what starts as a consensual workplace romance fizzles, and one party begins harassing and threatening the other. Or maybe you received poor performance reviews as “payback.” Other times, a supervisor may threaten negative action or promise positive action in exchange for a date or a sexual relationship.

Examples of “Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment” may include:

  • Being offered a pay raise for sexual favors

  • Receiving a demotion or less favorable work assignment after declining your supervisor’s date requests

  • Being threatened with termination if you do not submit to your boss’s sexual advances

2. Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

“Hostile work environment” sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, touching, or crude sexual language that is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person in your position would consider your work environment intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Courts assess many factors in determining whether you experienced an abusive work environment, including:

  • Frequency of the harassment – “pervasive” means the harassment occurred over a period of time and it negatively impacts your work life and emotional well-being. Hostile work environment claims usually fall under this “pervasive” prong.

  • Severity of the harassment – even one-time incidents may be serious enough in situations of physical assault, rape, or being fired or demoted for rebuffing sexual advances from your boss.

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