Seeking Legal Counsel for Sexual Harassment

by RyanD on June 14, 2013

Sexual harassment is a serious offense. When it occurs in the workplace it can disrupt concentration, productivity, and the ability to make a living, to say nothing of the damage to the victim’s personal well-being. For this reason, it is important to understand what sexual harassment entails and what do to if you have been harassed.

What is Sexual Harassment?

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes sexual comments directed at another, a request for sexual favors, and unwelcome physical conduct or sexual advances. It also includes overtly sexist comments (such as jokes about women) directed at no one in particular that lead to a disruption in the work environment.

What is NOT Sexual Harassment?

Typically, sexual harassment has to create a hostile atmosphere, or one that interferes with the employees’ ability to work, to be labeled as such. Simple teasing, for instance, does not usually fall into this category. Along these lines, sexual advances that are welcome or invited by the other party, such as playful flirtation, are also not considered harassment.

Who is the Victim?

While many people assume women are always the victims of sexual harassment, this is not the case. According to USA Today, the percent of sexual harassment claims filed by men has doubled in the last few decades. The report states that sexual harassment claims filed by men were up from 8 percent of all sexual harassment claims to 16 percent.

Who is Guilty?

The person guilty of sexual harassment could be anyone. It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be a supervisor, it could be a coworker, or it could be a subordinate. It could also be someone involved with the company in a different capacity, such as a client or customer. It is also important to note that sexual harassment does not have to involve two people of opposite genders—a man might harass a woman or another man.

What Actions Should You Take If You’ve Been Sexually Harassed?

If you believe you’ve been sexually harassed, you should take the following steps: keep as detailed an account as possible, save any evidence—such as emails or voicemails—that could help your case, speak with your employer so they know what is going on, and file a claim with your HR department and with the EEOC. If you aren’t sure if what you’ve experienced is sexual harassment, contact the EEOC for guidance.

When Can You Sue?

After you file a complaint with the EEOC, an investigation will be conducted to see if the employment law was indeed broken. This investigation might include interviewing witnesses and coworkers, speaking with your employer, and requesting documents relevant to the incident.

If the investigation shows your claim is warranted, you will receive a Right to Sue letter. This notice allows you to proceed with a lawsuit in court. The next step is to contact a lawyer who works with sexual harassment and workplace violations. You may also want to contact a lawyer if the EEOC investigation takes longer than the allotted 180 days.

Seeking counsel should also be initiated if your employer fires or demotes you for filing a claim with the EEOC, as this sort of discrimination is illegal.

Knowing what qualifies as sexual harassment, and when it’s time to seek legal counsel, is important for anyone who feels their workplace is an unsafe environment.




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