Have you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace?
This conduct may be considered discriminatory and illegal under the law. You may be able to file a formal complaint or claim compensation for the disrespect and violation you have endured.
Sexual harassment attorney representation can help you take the next steps toward getting justice. Before you speak to a lawyer, it may help you to understand how the law works and what to expect from moving forward with a complaint.
The information below will help you understand what workplace sexual harassment is, what types of behaviors are considered harassment, and what to do first if you feel you have experienced it.
Table of Contents
- What is sexual harassment in the workplace?
- What laws govern sexual harassment?
- What acts are considered to be sexual harassment?
- What should I do if I experience sexual harassment?
- How can a lawyer assist with sexual harassment claims?
What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that occurs when a person is harassed based on their sex. When this discrimination occurs in the workplace, it may violate both state and federal labor laws.
What Laws Govern Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Sexual harassment was made illegal by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to serve as a permanent commission to enforce civil rights violations in the workplace.
Today, the EEOC has developed a large body of regulations that define employers’ responsibilities, the acts that are considered violations, and the proper procedure for complaints.
Following the passage of an amendment in 1991, the right of victims to sue for damages after experiencing harassment was guaranteed. Someone who has experienced one or more of the behaviors that are considered sexual harassment may be able to claim compensation.
What Acts are Considered to be Sexual Harassment?
Under the law, sexual harassment may include physical touching, inappropriate comments, and many other behaviors that make employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or too distracted to perform their duties.
These behaviors, when repeated and allowed to continue, can contribute to a “hostile workplace” or “hostile working environment”. What makes a workplace hostile is defined broadly by the law so that harassment cannot easily be modified to fit into loopholes.
All of the following acts may be considered harassment:
- Unwanted touching, including hugs, kisses, or backrubs
- Groping or pinching
- Repeatedly brushing up against someone
Comments & Communication
- Requests for sexual favors
- Prying questions about an employees sex life
- Crude or sexual remarks and jokes
- Sharing stories of a sexual nature
- Comments on the attractiveness of an employee
- The sending of pornographic images through email or text message
- Posting sexually suggestive materials in public spaces
- Spreading sexual rumors
- Lewd expression implying sexual intent
- The mimicry of sexual acts through body motions and gestures
- Staring and looking up and down the body for prolonged periods of time
This is not a complete list of the acts that may be considered sexual harassment. If an employee targets another employee with behavior featuring a sexual element, it may be regarded as sexual harassment.
You should make sure that you respond appropriately.
What if My Supervisor is Sexually Harassing Me?
If your supervisor or boss is the one sexually harassing you, the law holds your employer to a higher standard – making it easier for you to prevail on your claim. When a supervisor creates a hostile working environment and you suffer a “tangible employment action” as a result, your employer is held strictly liable for the actions of its employee and the damages you have suffered. Tangible employment actions would include termination, a significant cut in pay or benefits, loss of a promotion, demotion or reassignment to a less favorable position or any other significant employment related adverse action taken against you.
What Should I Do if I Experience Sexual Harassment?
If you experience sexual harassment, you should take steps to document and report the behavior as quickly as possible.
Collect as much evidence as you can of the harassment that you are experiencing. Save any emails you have been sent containing lewd contents. Write personal reports about any improper things that have been said to you.
If it is legal in your state, make audio or video recordings of any harassment. It may be a good idea to speak to a lawyer first if you are planning to record someone without their knowledge.
You should not consider yourself responsible for any harassment you have experienced. However, it’s a good idea to take action to communicate that the behavior makes you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop.
Tell the employee responsible for the harassment to stop, or tell a supervisor if you are uncomfortable with speaking to the person directly. If you confront the behavior, you will be able to use it as evidence later.
When possible, report harassing behavior through written communication, such as emails. Doing so will allow you to save copies for your records, and to verify the timestamp when you made the complaint. Carbon-copy the email to your own address in case you lose access to your company email during the process.
If your supervisor, human resources departments, or other parties refuse to address the harassment, you will need to file a formal complaint with the EEOC. You must file a complaint before you are allowed to file a lawsuit.
You can learn more about filing a charge here. In some cases, the EEOC may choose to pursue a claim on your behalf. In most case, however, the EEOC will not be able to pursue your claim and will provide you with a right-to-sue letter. At this point, you and your lawyer may move forward with a case. It is critical to note the time deadline that applies once you have received your Right to Sue letter – a lawsuit must be filed within 90 days.
How Can A Lawyer Assist with Sexual Harassment Claims?
Your lawyer will be able to help you at any stage of the sexual harassment complaint process. Lawyers can help you understand if the behavior you’re experiencing is legally actionable, when and how you can collect evidence, and assist with the complaint process.
Once you have gone through the EEOC complaint process and have been issued a Right to Sue letter, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf and prosecute your claim in court.
Is it time to Speak to a Sexual Harassment Lawyer?
Now, you have some information about what sexual harassment is, how the law treats it, what acts are considered harassment, and what you can do to confront the behavior right now. Your next step may be to speak to a sexual harassment lawyer.
Contact us for a confidential review of your specific situation, at no cost to you.