Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

Discrimination Based on Sex is Unlawful in:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Public Accommodations
  • State and Local Governmental Services and Employment
  • Credit
  • Insurance
  • Finance

Gender Stereotyping (sexual orientation, gender identity, care giver status)

State and federal sex discrimination laws prohibit discrimination or harassment based on gender stereotyping.  Unlawful gender stereotyping is when a covered entity takes an adverse act based on assumptions of merit or qualification because of a person’s sex. The federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws involving employment discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has issued federal guidance. The Bureau will accept and analyze complaints of sex discrimination to include discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as care giver status.

Sexual Harassment Includes:

  • Harassment directed toward a person because of gender;
  • A pattern of favoritism toward sexual partners.

In order for behavior to be considered Unlawful Harassment it must be Sufficiently Frequent and/or Severe to create a Hostile Environment or, it must result in a tangible action, such as demotion, termination, eviction, change in work duties, wages, or rent.

Sexual Harassment Includes Unwelcome Verbal or Physical Conduct of A Sexual Nature When:

  • Submission to the conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of employment, housing, or services;
  • Submission to, or rejection of, the conduct is used as the basis for a decision affecting the individual's employment, housing, education, or services
  • The conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.

Examples of Sexual Harassment:

Sexual harassment is determined on a case-by-case basis. Acts which are offensive to one employee may not be offensive to another. However, in addition to sexual assault, the following acts may constitute sexual harassment:

  • Propositions or pressure to engage in sexual activity;
  • Repeated body contact;
  • Repeated sexual jokes, innuendoes or comments;
  • Constant leering or staring;
  • Inappropriate comments concerning appearance;
  • Hiring or promoting a sex partner over more qualified persons;
  • Harassment based upon gender

Impact of Sexual Harassment

Women are not the only victims of sexual harassment, men may also be harassed. People often do not report harassment out of ignorance of the law or fear of reprisal. Some of the impacts of sexual harassment are:

  • Emotional stress and related illnesses
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low morale
  • Absenteeism or declining productivity at work

Company Liability

A company may be held liable for monetary compensation and other forms of relief to victims of sexual harassment by:

  • The Owner or Manager;
  • Supervisors or Property Managers, whether or not the company knew of the sexual harassment;
  • Coworkers when the company knew or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action;
  • Outside Vendors or Customers when the company knew, or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action.

The Best Tool for Eliminating Sexual Harassment is Prevention

The following steps will aid in preventing sexual harassment:

  • Develop and post a written policy defining an prohibiting sexual harassment and providing an effective procedure for reporting sexual harassment and disciplining those who engage in it;
  • Provide training for all employees in sexual harassment prevention;
  • Express strong disapproval of any sexual conduct in the workplace, including jokes and comments which may be offensive;
  • Immediately investigate any report of sexual harassment;
  • Take immediate corrective action upon determining that sexual harassment occurred;
  • Inform employees, clients, and housing renters of their right to report sexual harassment to the Montana Human Rights Bureau

What To Do If You Believe You are the Target of Sexual Harassment

If you are offended by sexual jokes, comments or other sexual or gender-based conduct, immediately inform your supervisor, landlord, or the owner of the company. If your complaints are not resolved, you should take the following steps:

  • Report the sexual harassment to another supervisor
  • Keep written records of the dates and facts of all sexual harassment and the names and contact information of witnesses
  • Contact the Montana Human Rights Bureau