Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act (DDEA). It applies to employers with 4 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex nor is the person's sexual orientation a determining factor.
- The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, DDOL looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the DDEA.
EEOC Enforcement Guidances and Policy documents:
- Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment
- Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors
- Questions & Answers for Small Employers on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors
- Enforcement Guidance on Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc.
- Policy Guidance on Employer Liability under Title VII for Sexual Favoritism
You may also be interested in:
- How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination
- DDOL's Charge Processing Procedures
- Mediation at DDOL
- DDOL Investigations - What an Employer Should Know