What is the Legal Basis for Considering Sexual Harassment to be Illegal Discrimination?

There is no question that sexual harassment can take on many forms and can lead to an increasingly unpleasant working environment. Even though it has now been widely established that sexual harassment can occur in the workplace, there are still some questions regarding this pattern of misbehavior. For example, one of the most dominant inquiries would be this: isn’t sexual harassment just limited to the workplace? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is an emphatic NO. 

Of course, in order to prove this is true, we at the Lee Legal Group must first of all define the act of sexual harassment. This illegal practice is defined as “behavior characterized by the making of inappropriate and unwelcome sexual remarks in a workplace, other professional situation or regular social situation.” Naturally, when one thinks of sexual harassment, they generally think of a workplace. The unwelcome advances of Harvey Weinstein within the circles of Hollywood immediately comes to mind. However, what would be some situations where sexual harassment could occur outside of the workplace? 

Interestingly enough, the U.S. Supreme Court has actually ruled on this as far back as 1972. One such example where sexual harassment could occur in a non-workplace setting would include in a college setting. Examples could include a professor making unwelcome sexual advances to his or her students; offering a higher grade in exchange for sexual favors (i.e. quid pro quo); or simply making off-color remarks. Yet another example might be in the movie Forrest Gump where the principal offers Forrest’s mother an opportunity to let her son be in his school if she grants himi a sexual favor. She gives in, and he later sardonically remarks as he walks out of Mrs. Gump’s bed and breakfast, “Wow, your mom sure does care about your schooling, son. Mmmm…mmmm…” 

Indeed, when we consider the “casting couch” analogy in Hollywood, we realize that making sexual favors a condition of employment or other work is definitely a classic example of sexual harassment. However, there are other conditions that would fit the criteria of sexual harassment, including these scenarios: 

Unwanted sexual touching or physical contact 
Discussing sexual relations or fantasies in an inappropriate place 
Unwanted sexually explicit photos that come in the form of a text, email or other electronic means. 

Of course, sexual harassment is a very broad term, and we at the Lee Legal Group can help you determine if your situation is just sexual harassment or even worse, sexual assault. Either way, we will represent you to the best of our ability and get you the compensation you deserve for your difficulties.