Illegal workplace sexual harassment is common. Fight back.
High-profile workplace sexual harassment cases may encourage victims to seek justice
If you’ve been a victim of workplace sexual harassment, you’re not alone. An increasing number of victims are stepping forward and speaking out. Learn about your rights under federal law and steps you can take to fight back.
Victim of Sexual Harassment at Work?
Recently, we have heard about workplace sexual harassment incidents involving famous politicians, sports figures, and entertainers. But these incidents frequently involve ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. A 2015 Cosmopolitan magazine survey found that one person in three had been sexually harassed at work and that 71% of the victims did not report the offense. Could you have been sexually harassed at work?
Please understand that we will not be discussing sexual assault. If you believe you have been sexually assaulted, you should contact the police. Please also understand that workplace harassment is a complicated area of the law. If you think you may want to file a complaint, please discuss your case with a qualified workers discrimination attorney.
What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Federal law protects workers from harassment that giving of employment benefits on receiving sexual favors, and from harassment that, while not affecting economic benefits, creates a hostile or offensive working environment. Both your co-employee and your employer may be liable for damages. As authorized by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) created rules enforcing these rights. In addition, according to the list compiled by the non-profit Workplace Fairness, many states have laws protecting workers from harassment
Federal law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Some state laws cover smaller employers. California workplace harassment law, for example, applies to all employers. The Department of Labor generally describes the two types of workplace sexual harassment.
The first type of harassment is obvious: The supervisor conditions promotion of the employee’s consent to provide sexual favors. The second type, harassment by the creation of hostile work environment is more difficult to recognize and to prove. Examples include:
- Discussing sexual activities
- Telling off-color sexual jokes
- Unnecessary touching
- Commenting on physical attributes;
- Displaying sexually suggestive pictures;
- Using demeaning or inappropriate sexual terms or gestures
In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that these actions must be more than the “ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language . . . and occasional teasing.”
If these activities happen to you, ask yourself whether you felt the abusive conduct was:
- Physically threatening or humiliating
- Unreasonably interfered with work performance
- Affected your psychological well-being
- Caused by a superior within your organization
If you answer “yes”, you may have a claim.
What Should I Do If I Was a Victim of Workplace Sexual Harassment?
You may want to contact an attorney to determine if you should file under federal law or under the laws of your state.
We recommend taking these steps if you decide to proceed under federal law.
First, thoroughly document each incident, listing the date, who said or did what, and who else was present. And document any additional conversations you have with other employees of your organization.
Second, if it is safe and realistic, consider talking informally with the person who was abusive. He may sincerely apologize and stop the offensive conduct.
Third, obtain your organization’s policy regarding complaints about workplace sexual harassment. Follow its prescribed procedure and document everything.
Fourth, if your situation has not been satisfactorily resolved, file a complaint with the EEOC. You must file this complaint within 180 days of the incident. This deadline becomes complicated if you have multiple incidents. You may need to consult an attorney for assistance.
Fifth, the EEOC will investigate and probably attempt to resolve your claim. If the case does not settle, the EEOC will issue a right-to-sue letter which allows you to file a lawsuit in federal court. You may request this letter at any time after you file your EEOC complaint.
Sixth, you have 90 days from the date of the letter to file in federal court.
What Are the Possible Damages?
If you are successful, you may be awarded actual damages, hiring or promotion or reinstatement, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. An attorney cannot predict or promise damages in any case.
Business Insider listed the eight largest sexual harassment verdicts. Number One? A $168 million award awarded in 2012 to Ani Chopourian, a California physician’s assistant, because hospital doctors repeatedly asked her for sex and physically and verbally harassed her for two years.
If you believe that you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, to speak with a representative directly and immediately call 844-685-9200 for a free, no obligation case evaluation. Our attorneys have experience in fighting against discrimination in the workplace. If a co-employee or employer has violated the Civil Rights Act you’re entitled to file suit in federal court, and could be awarded up actual, compensatory, and punitive damages and be reinstated, promoted, or hired.