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MY BOSS SAYS . . . she won't do anything about a co-worker who made sexual comments to me.

At our office, we receive many calls from employees who feel that a co-worker or supervisor is sexually harassing them. These employees always ask, "Do I have a claim for sexual harassment?" The answer is: it depends.


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from sexual harassment. The law, however, does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents. If you feel you are being sexually harassed, ask yourself these two questions: is my harasser's conduct severe OR is that conduct pervasive (meaning constant and persistent)? In other words, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or so severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as being fired or demoted).

Another question we frequently hear is, "What should I do?" If you feel that you are being sexually harassed, you should let it be known that the harasser's conduct is unwelcome and that you want it to stop. Use your employer's complaint mechanism or grievance system and complain in writing. If there is no official system for making a complaint, complain in writing to your boss. Email or text message is sufficient. Keep a copy of your complaint, if possible. It may also be a good idea to keep notes regarding your harasser's conduct, documenting what he or she said or did and the dates of each incident of harassment.

If your employer ignores your complaint and permits the harassment to continue, or if you were fired, demoted, denied promotion, or punished because you complained, contact an experienced employment law attorney regarding your rights.