A recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that 30 percent of the women reported they had experienced unwanted sexual advances at work. That same poll revealed that most of the women who experience sexual harassment at work do not report the harassment to a person in a supervisory position or otherwise follow the procedure adopted by the employer to report such harassment. The obvious reason is that women do not report sexual harassment because they do not want to put their job in jeopardy, but there are protections. Victims of sexual harassment in the work place should be aware that they are protected under both Ohio and Federal law. Ohio R.C. 4112.02 (I) expressly prohibits any discriminatory act against any other person because that person has opposed any unlawful discriminatory practice [discrimination based on sex] or participated by filing a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in any investigation, proceeding concerning alleged discrimination. It is important to note that there is no requirement to establish a meritorious sexual harassment claim to invoke the statutory protections that a person has for reporting or participating in opposition to such conduct.
Many times, the failure to report the sexual harassment to persons designated by the company to receive such complaints or to a supervisor, results in the employer escaping from any responsibility. However, there are exceptions to the general defense on failure to report sexual harassment, such as when the harasser is the victim’s supervisor or on occasions when the harassment has become so prevalent it raises a question of fact on whether management knew or should have known of the sexual harassers conduct regardless of a formal complaint.
On some occasions the retaliation becomes a much bigger problem for the employer than the actual harassment. When a female employee experiences sexual harassment in the work place that affects that person’s ability to do their job, legal counsel should be contacted earlier rather than later to discuss available options.