Sexual Harassment and Assault

NC Employment Attorney Richard Daugherty > Articles > Sexual Harassment and Assault

You Don’t Have to Suffer in Silence.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act gives employees the right to work free from sexual harassment and physical violence – forms of sex discrimination.  This law applies to covered employers with 15 or more employees.  It also provides protection for those who oppose sexual harassment and violence against others. With harassment claims, the sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity of both the victim and the harasser can be the same or can be different.  Also, the harasser may be the victim’s manager, co-worker, or even a non-employee.

Sexual harassment can be broadly defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct due to a person’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Current law recognizes two types of unlawful sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an individual with supervisory authority suggests that an employee do something of a sexual nature in return for a benefit to the employee or to avoid a negative outcome. Examples of benefits may include promotions, raises, bonuses, and favorable work assignments. Examples of negative outcomes may include pay reductions, non-payment of bonuses, disciplinary actions, demotions, less favorable job assignments, and terminations.

Hostile work environment  (harassment) occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome treatment because of the employee’s sex (with or without sexual conduct) that is severe or frequent enough to alter the conditions of employment and create an intimidating or abusive work atmosphere, or that results in an adverse employment decision such as a disciplinary action, demotion, or termination.  This conduct does not have to be of a sexual nature. Once an employer knows about this conduct, it is obligated to take effective action to stop it.

Examples of Sexual Harassment – Of a Sexual Nature:

  • Telling sexually explicit jokes or name-calling
  • Asking personal questions of a sexual nature
  • Making unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requesting sexual favors
  • Implying that how an employee responds to a sexual advance could affect their employment
  • Displaying or sharing obscene material
  • Making inappropriate gestures
  • Staring inappropriately
  • Unwelcome touching or physical assault

Examples of Sexual Harassment – Not of a Sexual Nature

  • Offensive remarks about one’s sex, gender identity or orientation
  • Unwelcome, demeaning or humiliating conduct due to one’s sex, gender identity or orientation

It is critical that you notify management of the harassment. If possible, do so in writing and save a copy for documentation. Employers are obligated to investigate employee complaints of sexual harassment. However, employer investigations are often flawed. And, unfortunately, victims and witnesses of sexual harassment are often hesitant to report harassment for fear of retaliation. There are protections for those who complain about sexual harassment or oppose the sexual harassment of another employee.


It is also unlawful to punish an employee for complaining to the employer about being sexually harassed or assaulted or opposing this misconduct against another employee.  Title VII further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing an EEOC discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation about discrimination, assisting in an EEOC proceeding or lawsuit, or opposing employment practices that an employee reasonably believes discriminates against another individual in violation of the law.

Retaliation includes adverse actions such as demotions, disciplinary actions, terminations, and other forms of punishment that tend to dissuade employees from complaining about discrimination. For more information about legally protected activities and examples of unlawful retaliation, see Retaliation page.

Under Title VII, private sector employees must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of a discriminatory action. You will forfeit important legal rights if you do not file a timely charge with the EEOC. If you’ve already missed a deadline, call to discuss your options.

If you’ve been subjected to the pain and indignity of sexual harassment, contact Rich Daugherty. You don’t have to face this alone.  Whether your employment has been wrongfully terminated, you’re in fear of losing your job unlawfully, or you’re stuck in an untenable situation, contact Rich.

In addition to litigating cases, Rich negotiates confidential severance agreements and executive exit agreements favorable to his clients.

Rich offers a one-on-one relationship with his clients. He will stand by your side every step of the way to resolve your case fairly.

Rich represents clients from across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and more. He is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit. Evening appointments are also available.

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