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Workplace Sexual Harassment: What Crosses the Line?

Every employee has the right to a harassment-free workplace. Sadly, however, sexual harassment in the workplace continues to happen. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reports of workplace sexual harassment increased by 14% from 2017 to 2018.

While sexual harassment prohibits many different types of behavior, not every act is punishable by law. Learn what crosses the line, specifically in the state of Utah.

What Counts as Sexual Harassment?

According to the EEOC, sexual harassment can happen in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex from the harasser.
  • The harasser may be the victim’s supervisor, a co-worker, or a non-employee, such as a vendor or customer.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

While these are the federal mandates, each state has unique protections against workplace sexual harassment. In Utah, for example, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

In Utah, sexual harassment occurs when:

  • Submitting to this conduct is an explicit or implied term or condition of employment;
  • Submitting to or rejecting this conduct is a basis for employment decisions; or
  • This conduct unreasonably interferes with employees' work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

However, it’s important to note that not every offhand comment or tasteless joke can be considered sexual harassment. According to the EEOC, the law does not prohibit simple teasing or isolated incidents that are not very serious. In order for sexual harassment to be punishable by law, the harassment must be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or results in an adverse employment decision.

If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment, our employment law attorneys at Pearson Butler can help you seek justice while protecting your job.

Call Pearson Butler at (800) 265-2314 to schedule a consultation.