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Sexual Harassment Attorneys in Madison & Milwaukee

You Have the Right to Be Free of Unwanted Sexual Conduct and Advances Your Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination that violates federal law – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act and the City of Madison Equal Opportunities Ordinance. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace when it fits into one of two categories: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment harassment.

“Quid Pro Quo” Harassment

This type of sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when sex-related harassment is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of an individual’s employment. For example, a supervisor tells an employee he will select her for promotion if she goes out with him. When submitting to or rejecting such conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions, it is known as “quid pro quo” harassment.

Hostile Environment Harassment

Hostile environment harassment unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. In order to prove hostile environment harassment the conduct generally must be unwelcome and repeated. The following examples illustrate cases where the court found hostile environment discrimination present:

  • On a number of occasions, the company president asked the complainant and other female employees to retrieve coins from his front pants pocket, to retrieve objects he had thrown on the ground in front of them and commented, using sexual innuendo, about female employees’ attire. On other occasions, he remarked to complainant in the presence of other employees, “You’re a woman, what do you know,” “You’re a dumb ass woman,” and “We need a man as the rental manager.” In addition, he once remarked in the presence of other employees, as well as a client, that he and complainant should “go to the Holiday Inn to negotiate [her] raise.” Harris v. Forklift System, 510 U.S. 17 (1993)
  • A supervisor engaged in virtually daily horseplay of a sexual nature with female subordinates other than the complainant, including sitting on their laps, touching them in an intimate manner, and making lewd comments. The subordinates joined in and generally found the horseplay funny and inoffensive. The supervisor additionally engaged in consensual relations with at least two of his subordinates. Although none of the horseplay was directed at the plaintiff, the court found that supervisor’s conduct violated the law as it would have interfered with the work performance and would have seriously affected the psychological well-being of a reasonable employee. Spencer v. General Electric, 697 F. Supp. 204 (E.D. Va. 1988).
  • One of eight men on an offshore oil rig was forcibly subjected to sex-related humiliating actions against him by his male co-workers. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., et al, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998).

Are Employers Responsible for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Employers are directly responsible for the actions of supervisors or other managers who act as their agents if the harassment results in tangible employment action (e.g. termination, denial of promotion). They are also responsible for harassment by supervisors and co-workers if they have knowledge of the harassment and fail to take prompt corrective action.

Employers should clearly communicate that sexual harassment will not be tolerated by engaging in training and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance procedure. Employees experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace should be encouraged to come forward and should not be required to complain first to the offending supervisor.

Are Workers Protected Against Employer Retaliation?

It is unlawful under both federal and state law to retaliate against an employee for opposing sexual harassment or filing a discrimination charge, testifying or participating in any way in an investigation, or proceeding regarding such discrimination.

What Steps Can Employees Take If Experiencing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

1. It is helpful for an employee experiencing harassment to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop.

2. Employees can also use any employer complaint or grievance procedure to report the problem and seek resolution.

3. An employee can also file a formal complaint with the state or federal anti-discrimination agencies:

The Wisconsin Equal Rights Division of the Department of Workforce Development can be reached in Madison or Milwaukee:

201 East Washington Avenue
Room A300
P.O. Box 8928
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-6860

819 North 6th Street
Room 723
Milwaukee, WI 53203
(414) 227-4384

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can be reached at

310 West Wisconsin Avenue
Suite 800
Milwaukee, WI 53203
(414) 297-1111

The City of Madison Department of Civil Rights can be reached at

215 MLK Jr. Blvd.
Rm. 523
MADISON WI 53703-3346
(608) 266-4910

Our Madison and Milwaukee Sexual Harassment Lawyers Can Help You Fight For Workplace Justice

If you think you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you have a variety of legal recourses to fight for respectable work conditions. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your workplace situation. For a Madison sexual harassment laywer, call (800) 610-0040 or (608) 257-0040; for a Milwaukee sexual harassment lawyer, call (800) 236-3348 or (414) 271-8650. Or send us an email.