Even if you feel you are not ready to file a suit, consult a qualified sexual harassment attorney from our team as soon as possible so that you will know your options. We do not charge any fees upfront. In fact, we will only charge attorney’s fees if we obtain a financial settlement for you. If you don’t win, we won’t get paid a legal fee.
What Is Considered Sexual Harassment?
Unwelcome sexual harassment could include slurs, pornographic images, sexual innuendoes, sexual jokes, and any actions or actions related to sex. The victim and perpetrator do not have to be of the opposite sex. You can also bring a sexual harassment claim even if you are not a victim of sexual harassment but are in a workplace where you see sexual harassment. For instance, if a coworker is forced to submit to sexual harassment to keep their job, you can bring a sexual harassment complaint.
Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:
- Flirting with a coworker after they asked you to stop
- Repeatedly asking a coworker out
- Making repeated, unwelcome sexual advances
- Making unwelcome comments about a coworker’s physical appearance
- Making unwelcome sexual jokes
- Touching oneself in a sexual manner around a coworker
- Brushing up against a coworker
- Touching oneself in a sexual way so that others can see
- Making sexual insults, like calling a woman a “slut”
- Posters, photographs, screensavers, or emails of a sexual nature
- Making unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature
- Commenting on another’s sexual attractiveness
- Asking for sexual favor in exchange for career advancement
- Making derogatory remarks about someone’s sexual orientation
- Making gestures that are sexually suggestive
- Repeatedly calling a coworker after they asked you to stop
There are two main types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. In quid pro quo harassment, an employment decision is based on your submitting to the harassment. Quid pro quo exists when an employee whose submission to, or rejection of, sexual harassment is a factor in making a decision that affects the employee. Examples include termination, not receiving a promotion, getting a raise, or being placed on a performance improvement plan.
Hostile work environment harassment occurs when the conduct or speech makes the workplace environment offensive or intimidating to a reasonable person. For instance, if a coworker is sending you links to porn sites, or your supervisor views porn on the job in front of you, this may create a hostile work environment.
It can be challenging to prove either of these forms of sexual harassment. This is why it’s important you hire an experienced sexual harassment attorney. The experienced Birmingham employment attorneys at Heninger Garrison Davis have extensive experience handling sexual harassment and sexual misconduct cases.
For a free legal consultation, call us today (205) 326-3336
Steps to take if you or someone you know has been VIctimized by Sexual Misconduct
While this is not always possible, letting the offender know that what they are doing makes you uncomfortable can often lead to a resolution. If there is no resolution (i.e. the offender doesn’t care or continues the harassment) you should move on to the next step. Confrontation, however, at least forces the harasser to be aware of the effect of his/her actions.
Some employers have structured processes for handling these types of issues and some do not. If your place of work has a procedure, follow it as closely as possible and pay attention to specific guidelines, e.g. to whom issues should be reported, the time frame for reporting harassment etc. If there is no set complaint procedure, report the incident(s) to your immediate supervisor (unless they are the offender, in which case you should report to someone above them).
Regardless of how your employer handles sexual harassment issues, there are a few things that you can do to ensure your claim is heard:
1. Keep detailed notes on interaction related to the harassment, including who’s involved, what was said or done by both the offender and yourself, and dates and times of harassment incidents.
2. Determine whether the conduct is considered quid pro quo or hostile working environment sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo: An employee requests unwelcome sexual favors for, or in return of a promotion, raise, new job title, etc. Threats of demotion, salary cuts and bad performance reviews if sexual favors are not received are also considered quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Hostile working environment: This constitutes behavior that a “reasonable person” would find to be “hostile” and “offensive,” according to the EEOC.
Time lines for filing are generally restricted to anywhere from 180 to 300 days since the last incident of harassment. If several incidents occurred, only one of which was within the past 180 days (or whatever your state’s time limit is), the EEOC will only investigate the timely claim. The exception to this rule is if the harassment is ongoing.
Ongoing Harassment: in this case you must file within 180 days (or whatever your state’s time limit is) of the most recent event, but the EEOC will investigate all incidents, even if they occurred further in the past.
The EEOC and any other involved agencies will work to reach a resolution with your employer.
If no resolution is reached, the appropriate agencies will issue a “Notice of the Right to Sue” letter; in most cases you have 90 days to file a lawsuit after receiving the Notice of the Right to Sue. In bringing a civil suit for injuries, said injuries do not need to be physical. In fact, most cases are brought forth for the emotional damage suffered by a victim. A successful case can result in job reinstatement, damages, back pay, and other applicable remedies.
Description from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a coworker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
Definition from the U.S. Department of Justice:
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
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Sexual abuse refers to any type of illegal or coerced sexual conduct against another individual. A variety of different offenses fall into this category, which is not limited to physical contact alone. Instead, sexual abuse includes acts of sexual harassment, rape, indecent exposure, forcing another individual to view or participate in pornography, and contributing in any way to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Often times the unwanted behavior is recurrent and the victim knows the abuser.
Retaliation For Workplace Sexual Misconduct
The Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. What many people don’t realize is that these laws also protect employees from retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for filing complaints regarding sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Various federal laws protect against retaliation and establish the rights of “whistleblowers” (people who file complaints about unsafe workplaces).
Retaliation can take a variety of forms, including:
- Job termination
- Salary reduction
- Denial of a raise
- Denial of promotion
- Missed training opportunities
- Job reassignment
- Less desirable schedule
- Poor performance review
- Exclusion from staff activities
Some forms of retaliation are obvious while others are subtler. For example, an employer could switch an employee to the nightshift knowing that he or she has children, making his or her life more difficult. Any negative action from an employer following a harassment claim is potentially retaliation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) deems retaliation illegal, regardless of whether the claim was true, if the employee made the claim in good faith. In other words, an employer isn’t legally justified to commit retaliation just because sexual harassment never really occurred in the workplace.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
At Heninger Garrison Davis, we get many questions about sexual harassment. Listed below are a few of the most commonly asked questions. If you have any questions about your particular sexual harassment case, contact our knowledgeable lawyers today by calling 1.800.241.9779.
A: It does not matter the gender of the harasser and who is being harassed. Sexual harassment amounts to discrimination against a person because of their sex, no matter if they are male or female. If the harassment is between two people of the same sex, the victim of harassment must demonstrate that the harassment was based on their sex. The individual suffering harassment must have been treated differently than members of the opposite sex were.
A: Some employers have responded to sexual harassment claims, or the threat of such claims, by enacting policies against dating or intimate relationships between coworkers. If your employer does not have a policy against employees dating one another, it is advisable that you follow a “one strike and you’re out” rule. If you ask a coworker for a date, and the coworker lets you know that they aren’t interested, don’t ask again. Repeated requests for a date could constitute sexual harassment, while a single request likely will not.
A: Reporting sexual harassment can trigger several actions. Your employer may investigate the allegation, which involves speaking to the alleged harasser and any witnesses to the alleged harassment. Results may vary, depending on the investigation findings and the available disciplinary action for the company. Don’t assume that raising a complaint of sexual harassment will mean that the alleged harasser will have their employment terminated.
If legal remedies are pursued, you will be asked to participate in the EEOC’s investigation and potentially litigation. If litigation is pursued, you will be expected to participate in depositions, trial, and any other activities related to the litigation.
“Every 98 seconds, another person experiences sexual assault.” RAINN.org provides multiple resources on state laws, understanding consent, the effects of sexual violence, statutes of limitations, and much more. They also provide a free live chat and hotline for those who need help.
University of New Hampshire