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AG Chris Koster | FAQs
Missouri Attorney General

Frequently asked questions about sexual harassment

Table of Contents

What is sexual harassment?

Simply put, sexual harassment is any unwelcome verbal or physical conduct directed at a victim on the basis of gender.

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Can both men and women be victims of sexual harassment?

Yes, both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment. Anyone being sexually harassed, regardless of gender, should know that the law protects them and should feel encouraged to take appropriate action.

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What are the types of sexual harassment in the workplace?

Sexual harassment can take many forms, including but not limited to supervisor harassment, co-employee harassment, and even harassment by non-employees.

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What can I do if I believe I have been sexually harassed at work?

  • Notify your employer immediately.
  • If you employer has a sexual harassment policy in place, follow it and expect your employer to follow it.
  • Seek legal counsel if your employer fails to take corrective action, or takes action you consider insufficient to protect you.
  • Act quickly; you may lose your ability to vindicate your rights if you delay.
  • At any time, contact the Missouri Commission on Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment and have additional questions, or should you wish to file a Charge of Discrimination.

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What is a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment occurs when unwelcome conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance, creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

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How bad must a hostile work environment get before I should complain?

An employee should notify an employer whenever they reasonably believe themselves to be the victim of harassment. If the conduct is severe, it may be enough that it occurred only once. If the conduct is less severe, but occurred over an extended period of time, that too may be sufficient.

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Who can report a sexually hostile work environment?

The victim of sexual harassment does not have to be the person at whom the unwelcome conduct is directed. The victim may be someone who is affected by bad conduct when it is merely directed at another person. The victim does not have to be the opposite sex of the harasser.

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How can a victim be harassed at work by a non-employee?

Employers may be responsible for the sexual harassment of a non-employee if the employer or supervisor knew or should have known of the harassment, failed to take immediate and appropriate action, and had some degree of control over the non-employee.

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Can you provide any examples where courts have found harassment to have occurred?

The following examples do not foretell any particular result in your case and are presented for their illustrative value only. If you believe you must go to court to vindicate your rights, seek the advice of counsel.

In one case from the late 1990’s, an employer was held liable where a supervisor asked a victim about sexual conduct three to four times a week and made continuous egregious comments to the victim in front of co-workers.

In another case, a court found a single incident egregious enough to create a hostile work environment when a plant foreman forced a victim’s face against his groin in the presence of male co-workers, forcing her to leave crying while they laughed.

Finally, a court allowed allegations of harassment to go to a jury where a victim presented evidence of daily sexual banter, sexual innuendo, jokes and demeaning comments regarding her body and clothes.

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More Resources

Missouri Commission on Human Rights

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

American Bar Association

Employment Law Information Network

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