North Carolina Sexual Harassment Laws 2024 Explained

Every worker in North Carolina is entitled to a work environment free of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, these cases still occur, and it is important to stay up to date on North Carolina sexual harassment laws if you find yourself in this situation.

Knowing what does and does not constitute sexual harassment in the workplace is crucial, whether you find yourself a victim or are facing sexual harassment charges. When inappropriate behavior occurs or is alleged, it may become imperative to take legal action. An experienced attorney can offer legal representation to employers and employees alike.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can be difficult to define. However, the easiest forms of sexual harassment to identify are things like aggressive physical contact or sexual propositions. Other examples include:

  • Making inappropriate compliments like complimenting a woman’s body parts.
  • Creating a demeaning environment by hanging inappropriate images of women or men in the office, making repeated sexual jokes, or holding work functions at places like strip clubs.
  • Sexually touching another coworker against their will. This could be anything from patting to sexual assault.
  • Demanding sexual favors from an employee and promising workplace rewards or threatening punishments if they do not comply.
  • Asking inappropriate questions about a worker’s sex life.
  • Making sexual sounds or gestures at another employee.
  • Using sexual slurs in the workplace.
  • Repeatedly hitting on or asking out a coworker or subordinate when you’re already been asked to stop.
  • Stalking a coworker or subordinate.

The defining characteristics of most instances of sexual harassment are that they are inappropriate and take place against the victim’s will. Outside cases of rape or other highly threatening behaviors, sexual harassment must have a long-standing pattern of behavior.

Both individual workers and employers can be held liable for sexual harassment. However, if harassment occurs between employees and the employer knows and does nothing about it, they can still be held liable even if they had nothing to do with the behavior.

North Carolina Sexual Harassment Laws

North Carolina holds to the federal law that ensures all workplace sexual harassment is illegal, and all victims are entitled to sue the perpetrator and the employer in federal court. In addition, North Carolina mandates all government employers to create and establish a plan to keep unlawful workplace harassment from happening in the first place.

Types of Sexual Harassment Claims Available in North Carolina

There are two main types of claims you can make in the state for sexual harassment. One, quid pro quo, claims that you have the potential to be fired or passed over for a job or promotion if you reject and don’t submit to the sexual advances of a superior. You could also be awarded for your actions if you do submit.

The second type of claim is that of a hostile work environment. This happens when your job is secure, but the workplace itself is unbearable, intimidating, offensive, or hostile as a direct result of sexual harassment.
To qualify as a hostile work environment, however, it is required that the challenged behavior is pervasive, severe, and unwelcomed and has made the victim’s workplace hostile and abusive.

Evidence to Prove Sexual Harassment

The most important piece of evidence in a sexual harassment case is the personal testimony of the victim. Other crucial evidence may include:

  • Physical evidence, such as any electronic communication like text messages or social media messaging, photographs, and video recordings.
  • Documentation that the victim might have kept during the course of the harassment.
  • Witness testimony that could back up the victim’s story.
  • Security footage of the location in which the harassment took place.
  • Police reports if the victim took action immediately following the harassment.

Keep in mind that because each sexual harassment case is different, and so is the evidence that may come with the case. However, an experienced attorney can help you gather and analyze the necessary evidence that will support your case.

What Doesn’t Count as Sexual Harassment in North Carolina

Because the cost of defending a sexual harassment case can be so high, many employers take precautionary steps to prevent any incident from arising. Some ban workplace romances altogether. Others require employees to register their relationship with the company’s human resources department.

However, in the simplest of terms, consensual sexual behavior is typically not considered sexual harassment. Some examples of things that do not count as sexual harassment include:

  • Having consensual sex with a coworker
  • Dating a coworker
  • Consensual flirting with a coworker
  • Paying an appropriate compliment to a coworker
  • Small talk about private or personal life
  • Sharing details of your sex life with a coworker friend outside of work when you both feel comfortable discussing the topic

FAQs

Q: What Qualifies as a Sexual Harassment Case in North Carolina?

A: The term sexual harassment covers a broad range of actions, but in general terms, it can include any form of communication–whether in writing, on the phone, via fax, voicemail, or email–that is offensive and inappropriate in a sexual manner. It can also include any physical behavior that is not consensual and is repetitive, even when the perpetrator is asked to stop.

Q: Can You Sue for Sexual Harassment in North Carolina?

A: In some sexual harassment cases in North Carolina, you may be able to sue for damages. Harassment can impact workplace productivity, cause harm, and can even have an emotional and mental impact on the victim, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. A qualified attorney can help you analyze the facts of your case and determine the right course of action to take.

Q: How Do I File a Sexual Harassment Complaint in North Carolina?

A: There are two ways to file a workplace sexual harassment complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: either by mail or in person. By mail, write a detailed letter describing the harassment and include the contact information for yourself, your employer, and any witnesses. Sign the letter and send it to the correct EEOC office.

In person, you can schedule an appointment via the EEOC portal, upload documentation, explain the incident in an interview, and sign the complaint.

Q: What Qualifies as a Hostile Work Environment in North Carolina?

A: A hostile work environment in North Carolina is created when an employee, manager, supervisor, or coworker continually does or says things that are inappropriate or that interfere with the victim’s work performance. When inappropriate things are pervasively said regarding sex, race, religion, color, nation of origin, sexual orientation, etc., this can also create a hostile or offensive work environment.

Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

If you find yourself a victim of workplace sexual harassment or are accused of being a perpetrator, you should speak to an experienced attorney. At Maloney Law & Associates, PLLC, our team is compassionate and ready to fight for your rights.

Contact us today to speak with one of our knowledgeable and trusted attorneys.