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Sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Sexual harassment in a Michigan workplace is illegal under federal law. Pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are two kinds of sexual harassment: hostile work environment and quid pro quo. A harassment claim based on a theory of hostile work environment typically requires a pattern of behavior. Courts will examine the nature and frequency of the conduct, including who was involved in perpetrating the alleged harassment, whether the conduct was obviously offensive or hostile and whether it was directed toward one person or more than one. Legal action is warranted when the conduct is based on sex, unwelcome and of such severity that the work environment might be considered offensive or abusive.

In contrast, a single instance of quid pro quo harassment may be sufficient to state a claim. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee is asked or required to tolerate harassing behavior in order to get or keep a job. For example, if an employer demands sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, that is quid pro quo sexual harassment. It is also illegal if a denial of sexual advances leads to adverse employment action.

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint alleging sexual harassment. Practically speaking, though, retaliation does occur. It is thus generally in the employee's best interest to secure a copy of his or her employee personnel file as well as any other relevant documents prior to filing a complaint.

In a situation where an employee believes he or she is experiencing or has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, an employment law attorney may be able to provide advice regarding the options available and the steps the employee must take to pursue relief. Before filing a lawsuit under Title VII, for example, an employee is required to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Source: Findlaw, "Sexual Harassment at Work", September 05, 2014

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