Can Sexual Harassment be Considered as Workplace Hazard?

male colleague touching female colleague's hand

Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances or offensive remarks about a person’s sex or sexual orientation. This includes both verbal and physical harassment in all forms. This innapropriate behavior includes derogatory comments, requests for sexual favors, or forcing someone to do things as a basis for their employment 

It is also extreme measures such as severe or pervasive acts by the abuser that create a hostile work environment for another person. Although sexual harassment must reach the level, by definition, of being likely to cause death or physical harm to an employee to be legally considered a hazard by OSHA, there are other factors that must be taken into consideration when confronting the issue.

What Does the Law Say

Workplace sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and is illegal. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) states that it is against federal law for employers to allow anyone to be subjected to this form of harassment, regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientaion. The Civil Rights Act applies to every individual, not just women.

For example, it is illegal to allow one employee to make remarks or tease another employee and make comments that refer to their gender or, for example, “acting gay’ or “too masculine or feminine”. The law was put in place to protect employees by holding employers accountable to ensure harassment-free, safe working environments. Employers must act to stop all harassment once it is brought to their attention.. 

Connections Between Sexual Harassment and Work Safety

Although sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t neccessarily considered a work hazard, the effects can still be extremely harmful on the victims. Increased stress can cause emotional, mental, and physical ailments that can lead to problems with work performance. It can also cause the victim to feel intimidated and fearful about reporting the issue in the first place.

Sometimes, sexual harassment can go to another level and take the form of threats, physical assault, confinement, and other types of physical harm to an employee. In these types of  instances, law requires that employers must take steps to eliminate these hazards and risks in the workplace or face being served with violations under the OSH Act.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) section 5a1 states that “each employer shall furnish to each of his employees a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”. Explicitly, sexual harassment on the job is prohibited by law and so is allowing it to happen.

What To Do If You’re A Victim

If you’re being sexually harassed at work, make sure you’re documenting every interaction in the even that you need to seek legal representation from San Francisco Bay Area sexual harassment lawyers. This will help you ensure that you have details written down that you might forget about. Take steps to speak to your employer about the harassment and ensure that they’re aware of the situation. If you’ve made a complaint and the situation wasn’t resolved or has gotten worse, consider taking legal action.