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How can Michigan workers respond to sexual harassment?

Employees are protected from workplace mistreatment under Michigan and federal civil rights laws. Sexual harassment laws apply to most public and private employers, labor unions and agencies that assist employers with hiring.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an anti-discrimination law. Within that federal law are specific protections against sexual harassment. Some Troy employees may be unaware inappropriate on-the-job conduct does not have to be conspicuous to qualify as sexual harassment.

Some workers think this form of harassment only involves direct sexual assaults on employees. Laws cover blatant, unwelcome sexual behavior as well as less obvious violations that have a negative impact on an employee's job status, performance or work environment.

Sexual harassment targets and offenders are not gender specific. Men and women may be victims of harassment from someone of the same or opposite sex. The offender may be a boss, another manager, a colleague or someone working for or with an employer.

You may recognize and report sexual harassment even if the victim is someone else at work. Sexual harassment is against the law whether or not the victim is terminated or suffers an economic loss.

Workers are advised to tell harassers directly conduct, like posting sexually explicit materials in the workplace or sexual innuendos, is offensive. It must be clear the behavior is unwanted. Employees have a right to file a sexual harassment complaint within the company or with an outside agency without suffering repercussions like an unwarranted demotion or wrongful discharge.

It's easier for employers to try to prevent sexual harassment than respond to a complaint. Companies can inform workers about sexual harassment rules and develop policies and training programs to discourage inappropriate behavior. Employers are encouraged to facilitate the internal complaint process and resolve harassment complaints in a timely manner.

Workers can turn to an employment attorney when these employer ideals don't match workplace reality.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Sexual Harassment," accessed July 16, 2015

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