Sexual harassment in the workplace is prevalent, and the trucking industry is not exempt. Sexual harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct affects an individual’s employment, and unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
Sexual harassment is illegal, and there are state and federal laws in place to protect victims.
Types of Sexual Harassment
The two types of sexual harassment recognized under Title VII are quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo is when a supervisor, or someone in authority, demands tolerance of sexual harassment in exchange for one keeping their job or being promoted.
A Hostile Work Environment requires a pattern of unwelcome sexual conduct and is also severe enough to create an abusive work environment. The following factors help to determine whether a claim is valid to the court system.
- Verbal and/or physical sexual conduct.
- How often it happens?
- Hostile or blatantly offensive acts.
- The alleged harasser’s title: supervisor or co-worker.
- How many alleged harassers were involved?
- Was the victim singled out, or were multiple people harassed?
- The victim believes the conduct was abusive, offensive, or hostile, and the conduct is viewed by another person as such.
An employer can be held liable for pain and suffering due to sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, it is recommended that employers have a visible and well-enforced sexual harassment policy in place. The severity of the liability employers face will depend on the alleged harasser and the action the employer took.
If the alleged harasser is a person of authority and the victim suffered any damage to their employment status or responsibilities, then the employer is liable. The employer is also liable if it is a hostile work environment and they did not take action to prevent or stop the harassment once made aware.
If a co-worker commits the sexual harassment and the employer was made aware or the harassment was obvious and did nothing to correct it, then the employer is liable.
Victims’ Responsibility to Stop Sexual Harassment
While there are many legal standards employers must follow, potential victims have responsibilities as well. Documentation is vital to the strength of a victim’s case. If attempting to end the sexual harassment personally does not work, then turn to the employee handbook to see the policies in place and who you should report to.
Personally, speak with your harasser. The most difficult action a victim may face is standing up to their harasser; however, this is normally the most effective. In some cases, the harasser may not realize their actions are offensive. If you cannot face your harasser, try writing a letter, emailing a company email address, or telling your supervisor. Document the response received.
Escalating your complaint. If personally speaking with your harasser does not help, then follow company policy on who to take your complaint to. Remember to document every action and response. If there is no corrective action taken, then escalate to the next level of authority.
Why keep documentation? The courts rely on documentation to ensure the proper steps within the company policy were taken. If the company did not enforce its own policy, then they are held liable. If the company was not given a chance to enforce corrective action, then the victim could lose their case in court.
Employer retaliation is illegal, but it still happens. Even though employers are not allowed to retaliate against a victim, it is still possible to suffer damage to your employment status or responsibilities. Obtaining a copy of your personnel file from your employer prior to filing your complaint will ensure you will not risk having your employment reputation damaged. Regardless of how much you trust your employer, you should always expect the worst in a legal situation.
Filing a sexual harassment in the workplace claim. Be aware of all statutes of limitations at the federal and state levels. First, send your documentation and complaint to the EEOC and give them time to investigate. If your complaint is not resolved, then you can contact a lawyer about filing a Title VII lawsuit.
Roughly five percent of truck drivers are women. While is it more common for women to be targeted with sexual harassment, men also face the same experiences. Sexual harassment also includes verbal, nonverbal, visual, physical, or written conduct of a sexual nature.
Title VII – The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII applies to all employers with 15 or more employees in any and all industries. Along with other civil rights defined for a safe and healthy work environment, sexual harassment is also clearly defined. This civil rights act protects employees from employers, harmful workplaces and environments, and unruly co-workers.
Under Title VII, employers must take reasonable steps in preventing and correcting sexual harassment. If you have experienced harassment and your motor carrier has not taken steps to address the issue or protect you, please read the below information:
- The Federal Law forbidding sexual harassment within the workplace falls under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This specific law states employers are held responsible for avoiding and putting a stop to sexual harassment on the job. Employers must: “(1) take reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment; (2) take reasonable care to promptly correct sexual harassment that has occurred.”
- Retaliation is against the law – just as sexual harassment. Retaliation includes taking a leave of absence, being downgraded in position, or being terminated.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Toll-Free: (800) 669-4000