Wisconsin Sexual Harassment laws & HR compliance analysis

Wisconsin Sexual Harassment: What you need to know

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits discrimination in employment because of sex or sexual orientation, including harassment based on an individual's sex or sexual orientation (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 111.31 et seq.). The Act applies to all employers in the state, both public and private, regardless of the number of employees. The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against individuals who assert their rights under the law.
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Sexual orientation. “Sexual orientation” is defined as having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference, or being identified with such a preference.
Sexual harassment. “Sexual harassment” is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature, or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can be unwelcome actions taken by a person of the same or opposite gender (WI Gen. Stat. Sec. 111.32).
Gender-specific comments. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that derogatory comments that are gender-specific can support a finding of a hostile work environment and that claims asserting a sexually hostile work environment do not require evidence of sexual desire (Boumehdi v. Plastag Holdings, LLC, 489 F.3d 781 (7th Cir. 2007); Passananti v. Cook County, 689 F.3d 655 (7th Cir. 2012)).
Practical tip: Employers should review their antiharassment policies and training programs to ensure that employees understand how gender-specific comments may constitute sexual harassment.
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Single act can constitute harassment. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a single act can create a hostile work ...

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