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Dealing with sexual harassment and discrimination at work

No employee should have to face sexual harassment and discrimination at work. In fact, theU.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionstates that it is unlawful for a person to discriminate or subject another to harassment based on gender. This protects West Virginia employees from sexual harassment and discrimination from co-workers, employers and customers.

West Virginia workers have the right to seek legal assistance when faced with illegal behavior at work. It is important to understand which actions or behaviors are considered discriminatory or harassing. Contrary to common misconceptions, inappropriate and derogatory statements that are non-sexual in nature, but that refer to a person's gender, are also considered sexual harassment. This includes any physical behavior that is embarrassing or inappropriate.

Teasing among co-workers is not against the law, nor are incidents that can be considered minor and isolated. If an employee is subjected to a work environment that has become hostile or has been fired after filing a harassment complaint, he or she may seek legal help. A careful evaluation of the particular situation by a lawyer knowledgeable in employment law can determine if an individual is eligible to file a civil claim.

In some circumstances, it may be difficult to determine if a person is a victim of behavior that can be defined as sexual harassment or discrimination. If unsure, it should be noted that every employee has the right to seek a legal opinion. Employees have the right to a safe environment, free from gender-based discrimination. If faced with sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind, victims do not have to suffer alone.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Sexual Harassment", Dec. 2, 2014

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