Sexual Harassment is an Issue for Kansas Workplaces
Sexual harassment in general can be defined as discrimination that occurs because of your sex (gender). When someone at your workplace inappropriately touches you, shows you or displays sexual images (such as a photograph on a telephone or a calendar on a wall), or verbally jeers, insults, sexual propositions, offers a reward for sexual favors, it is sexual harassment. This intimidation, whether it happens one time or many times, influences your job or your ability to do it.
The Kansas state government has made some efforts to protect workers, but it has also made steps backward in its protections for workers against sexual harassment.
Acts Against Discrimination
On the positive side, the group of Acts Against Discrimination laws stipulate that it is illegal to discriminate against employees based on their gender. The laws apply to all private employers and public employers, from Cottonwood Falls to Topeka, with at least four employees. They make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on their gender, race, religion or religious dress, familial status, skin color, national origin (ancestry), or physical or mental disability. Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaints of it are forms of discrimination that, according to the 2018 governor of Kansas, are not tolerated.
However, these state laws do not require employers to provide anti-sexual-harassment training. Worse, employers who voluntarily provide training are able to use it as a defense when a sexual harassment complaint is filed against their company.
2015 Executive Order
On the negative side, in 2015, the state rescinded a 2007 Executive Order that protected workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The 2015 Executive Order may be summed up as saying that Kansas state employees can be discriminated against if they reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to their employer.
In 2020, the Kansas Human Rights Commission stepped in to add protection from sexual harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity for workers. The commission cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition of protections from sexual orientation and gender identity harassment as the basis for its decision.
Due to complex laws, confusing overlap between Kansas and federal protections, and the possibility of being in a group of people that is unprotected, victims of sexual harassment might feel intimidated by the process of reporting the harassment. You need support and you may need advice.
The first step in moving forward is to recognize that the harassment is not your fault. Next, you must report to your manager or human resources department that you have been sexually harassed. Admittedly, this can be difficult, especially if your harasser is your manager or, for example, works in human resources. If the harassment continues, return to your manager or human resources department and tell them again about the harassment and let them know it is affecting your work environment. If you still do not get support and resolution from your employer, it is time to get legal help.
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