Department of Labor and Industry

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is Against the Law

Employees have a Right To Work in an Environment Free of Sexual Harassment

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;
  • submission to, or rejection of, the conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision;
  • the conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment also includes:

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

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;

Impact of Sexual Harassment

Women are not the only victims of sexual harassment. Men may also be harassed. Employees often do not report harassment out of ignorance of the law or fear of reprisal. Some of the impact of sexual harassment are:

  • emotional stress and related illnesses
  • low self-esteem
  • low morale
  • absenteeism
  • declining productivity
  • high turnover

Employer Liability

Employers may be liable for monetary compensation and other forms of relief to employees who are victims of sexual harassment by:

  • the owner or manager;
  • supervisors, whtehter or not the employer knew of the sexual harassment;
  • coworkers, when the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action;
  • non-employees in the workplace when the employer knew, or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take immediate corrective action.

What Employers Should Do

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 of their right to report sexual harassment to the Montana Human Rights Bureau or the federal Equal Employement Opportunity Commission.

What Employees Should Do

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

  • report the sexual harassment to another supervisor or your employer;
  • keep written records of the dates and facts of all sexual harassment and the names of witnesses;
  • contact the Montana Human Rights Bureau.