Sexual Harassment

Throughout the last century we made great strides in including women in the work place.  We also took steps to ensure men had the opportunity to participate in occupations that were historically female-dominated.  However, as more jobs became co-ed, more and more people began to suffer sexual harassment.  Fortunately, in Oregon there are laws that make sexual harassment unlawful, and that allow you to do something about the problem if you have been victimized by a sexual harasser.

Oregon Sexual Harassment Law

Oregon state law defines what constitutes sexual harassment.  Your particular employer may have a more stringent policy than what state law covers, but regardless of company policy the state law will always apply so long as you are working in Oregon.  Under state law, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature (verbal, physical, or visual), that is directed toward an individual because of gender.”  It can also include non-sexual conduct that is gender-related.  Sexual harassment includes harassment of people of both the same sex and the opposite sex of the harasser.

One term that often comes up in the discussion of sexual harassment is “quid pro quo,” which means “this for that” in Latin.  This is the type of harassment where a supervisor grants or denies work benefits based on an employee’s willingness to provide sexual services.  But this is far from the only type of sexual harassment.  Another type of sexual harassment involves a “hostile environment.”  A hostile environment is a workplace where there is a pattern of offensive sexual conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee’s work performance, or that creates an intimidating work environment.

Video on Proving Sexual Harassment at Work

Oregon officials provide a few examples of sexual harassment, although the list is far from exhaustive.  It includes:

  • Repeated sexual flirtations, advances or propositions;
  • Continued or repeated language of a sexual nature;
  • Graphic or degrading comments about an individual or his or her appearance;
  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures;
  • Making unwelcome or abusive physical contact of a sexual nature;
  • Conditioning employment benefits upon sexual favors; and
  • Creating a hostile work environment.

Federal Sexual Harassment Law

With the state laws that protect Oregon’s workers from sexual harassment, federal laws also come into play to deal with this issue.  One such law is Title VII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, although only companies with 15 or more employees are affected.  Sexual discrimination is prohibited by the Act, including discrimination based on gender, pregnancy.  The Act does also deal with sexual harassment.  Claims under the federal statute must be filed within 300 days of the date the harassment occurred, so it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.  However, even if more than 300 days have passed, you may still have a claim under state law, so you should still contact an attorney.

Contacting the Employment Attorneys at HKM

If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should contact an attorney immediately.  You can reach the licensed and experienced employment attorneys of HKM Employment Attorneys LLP by calling (503) 389-1130.