From Harvey Weinstein to Bill O’Reilly, many prominent individuals have recently been fired or forced to resign from their jobs because of sexual harassment allegations. These high profile cases have placed a much needed spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace. The biggest take away from these stories is that the power of the harasser often makes the victim feel powerless to speak up. Unfortunately, many people who have been sexually harassed are simply told by their company that there is nothing that can be done about it. However, there are steps that you can take if you have been sexually harassed in the workplace. I explain below.
Sometimes the person who is sexually harassing you is genuinely unaware of how their behavior has affected you. If you are being harassed, you should tell the offending party that you find their conduct offensive and inappropriate. This will often solve the issue because the offender will likely want to avoid tension at work. Even if this doesn’t fully resolve the problem, at least you have given verbal notice that their behavior is not wanted.
Ask About Your Employer’s Sexual Harassment Procedure
Most companies have a procedure for how to handle sexual harassment claims. Follow the procedure and make note of any time limits that are stated in the company policy. If there is no company procedure, you should inform your immediate supervisor about the harassment. If your supervisor is the one sexually harassing you, go to the person above them. Keep good records of your complaints and all incidents of harassment. You should include dates, times, people involved, and what was said in your documentation.
File an Administrative Charge
If your employer's internal procedure doesn’t put a stop to the sexual harassment, you will need to file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state's human rights or civil rights enforcement agency. These agencies will investigate your claim and issue a "right to sue" letter if your claim is determined to be valid.
Once you have your “right to sue” letter, you can bring about a civil lawsuit for any injuries or damages you suffered because of the sexual harassment. Legal remedies for sexual harassment cases include:
- Reinstatement of your job
- Back pay for lost wages
- Damages for emotional distress
- Payment of your attorney's fees and court costs
Have you been sexually harassed at work? Contact our Hollister employment law attorney to begin your free case consultation today.