Sexual harassment claims in the workplace
Sexual harassment, by employers or otherwise, is nothing new. But with the recent social media campaigns that focus on standing up and fighting back, like the #metoo movement, a lot of questions have been raised about what rights women have when it comes to recourse for sexual harassment, including the one heard most frequently: “Can I sue my employer for sexual harassment?”
The short answer is yes, you can sue your employer for sexual harassment or sexual assault violations. But there are also a lot of things that you can do to stop sexual harassment in the workplace that not only greatly increases the chances of stopping it, but are also necessary stepping stones toward litigation. First, say something. If the harasser or abuser is a superior, then saying something will put them on notice that their behavior is inappropriate and will not be allowed to slide. The next thing you need to do is follow your company’s guidelines on the issue.
Next, report it. You should formally file a complaint with the HR office, or your superior. If your superior is the harasser, report it to his or her superior. If there is no other superior, skip this step, but please be aware that it is critical to later litigation against your employer that they were aware of the incident(s). Next, keep records of the harassment.
After you have kept a log of all of the harassment, the next step is to report the conduct to a governmental agency. If you have followed the above tips and the harassment is still continuing, then it’s time that you take action outside of the workplace and file a formal complaint with a government agency. This formal complaint is known as an administrative charge and it’s usually filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These government agencies will investigate the claim and begin steps to resolve the issue. If the agency determines your complaint to be valid, and cannot resolve the issue with the offender, then they will issue you something known as a Notice of Right to Sue. This document states that the agency has deemed the allegations valid, and that litigation may proceed.
Once you have been issued a Notice of Right to Sue, you can start the process of filing a civil lawsuit against your harasser to reclaim any damages caused. Most commonly, these damages are in the form of emotional injuries, lost income from work, lost benefits, and future concerns like counseling. There may also be punitive damages, depending on the seriousness of the allegations.
Know the course and stay the course. This means to follow the procedures, do everything you can to make your case strong, and do not do anything that could jeopardize your case. Retaliation, quitting your job, or acting out could all jeopardize your ability to take your case to court.
Remember, you have the right to work in an environment that is safe and free of sexual harassment. If you have been sexually harassed at work and none of the steps above have stopped the abuse, contact lawyers who have experience navigating complex EEOC claims and discrimination suits, don’t assume that liability is yours alone. Call the lawyers at the Harrelson Law Firm for guidance.
Thanks to Steve Harrelson and our friends and co-contributors from Harrelson Law Firm, P.A. for their added insight into sexual harassment claims in the workplace.