This week’s question: I AM BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED AT WORK, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
QUESTION: My boss constantly makes sexual comments and jokes to me and it makes me really uncomfortable. She can be pretty vindictive, so I am afraid to do anything because I need my job. What should I do?
ANSWER: Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2101 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 both prohibit discrimination based on sex. It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Usually, simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, is not prohibited, but if the harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted), it is unlawful.
Have you asked your boss not to make those comments to you? Sometimes people don’t realize that their words or actions are offensive. You should follow your employer’s internal complaint/sexual harassment procedures and report any incidents of harassment. If you are part of a union, you can contact your union representative and ask about grievance procedures under your contract. Going through these internal procedures may not be enough to stop the harassment, but if you unreasonably fail to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by your employer, your employer may be able to avoid legal liability for the harassment. You should also document the harassment, keep notes of what was said, when, where, and who else was present. If the harassment continues after you have taken these steps, you may want to institute legal action and/or file complaints with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at www.gwinntauriainenlaw.com.