If you attend a university in North Carolina or work at a location where managers, coworkers or clients are present, you can expect school administrators and employers to maintain safety on campus or in the workplace. A hostile environment can make it difficult to study or to do your job. If, for instance, you believe you are a target for sexual harassment, there are laws in place to protect you and to hold the responsible party accountable for any damages that occur because of harassment.
The fact that you feel as though someone is harassing you is relevant, but it is not enough to prove that the behavior in question meets the legal definition for sexual harassment. One of the first things you can do to resolve this type of situation is report it to the appropriate authority, such as school officials or your employer. If the alleged perpetrator is an administrator or your boss, you can reach out for additional support through local law enforcement or a legal agency.
Substantiating a sexual harassment claim
If you wish to address a matter of sexual harassment in court, you must be prepared to provide evidence of certain key elements, such as those included in the following list:
- The behavior in question must be non-consensual, that is, unwelcome by you, whether it was physical, verbal or other unwanted actions (such as staring, sending notes, etc.).
- To constitute harassment, the behavior must be pervasive, meaning that it happens frequently and is negatively affecting your ability to function.
- The events have unfolded as quid pro quo (meaning that someone tried to force you to do something to get something else, like a job promotion, good grade in a class at school, etc.) or in a hostile environment, such as bullying at work, on a sports team, on campus, etc.
Touching does not necessarily have to occur for a person to be guilty of sexual harassment. However, the court must be convinced that certain factors are indeed relevant to your case, such as the issues listed in the previous section.
What is the punishment for sexual harassment?
There can be several penalties for sexual harassment on a college campus, in the workplace or elsewhere. For example, if your employer unlawfully fired you from your job because you wouldn’t accept his or her sexual advances, the court might order the company to give you your job back. In some cases, a perpetrator could wind up facing criminal charges and doing time in jail, if convicted in court.
A professional (such as a coach, teacher, doctor, etc.) could lose his or her license because of sexual harassment. It can be stressful and scary to report harassment. However, guidance and support are available, and North Carolina law enables you to seek restitution for damages.