Harassment at work creates an intimidating environment in which you might feel afraid to speak out against inappropriate behavior. If you are experiencing harassment at the hands of an employer, you should be aware that employment law forbids retaliatory action against individuals who report abuse. While going up against your employer takes courage, working with a sexual harassment lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri will show the defense that you are serious about protecting your rights.
What Are Whistleblower Laws?
Whistleblower laws deal with employer retaliation as a subset of employment law. Employer retaliation occurs any time an employer seeks to punish an employee for actions like reporting discrimination, refusing to perform illegal tasks, or exercising the right to paid sick leave. The retaliation could be any act intended for harm or intimidation, including:
- Firing or demoting the employee
- Writing a negative performance review
- Skipping over the employee for a promotion
- Scheduling the employee for fewer hours
- Denying benefits
- Refusing to pay the employee commission that is owed to him or her
- Threatening to give the employee a bad reference when future job opportunities come up
Whistleblower laws make employee retaliation illegal. In an adverse action case, the “whistleblower” is an employee who brings a complaint against his or her employer. According to the current whistleblower laws, if you report harassment at work and your employer takes any adverse action against you, you may have grounds to press further charges on top of your sexual harassment case.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted attention of a sexual nature, including comments, touching, and requests for favors. Most employers go through formal training to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and how to avoid being accused of harassing their employees.
As a result of this education, employers who harass employees are usually careful to act in subtle ways that offer little direct evidence of the inappropriate behavior being exhibited. While you may not be able to prove that harassment occurred, Kansas courts recognize the elusive nature of the crime. Therefore, having circumstantial evidence that you were harassed could give you enough leverage to win your case.
What Should I Do If My Boss Is Harassing Me?
Speak to an Attorney
Your case will be strongest if you understand how to document the harassment you experience, what protocols you need to follow to report the incident, and where to file a claim. Your attorney can outline your next steps and help ensure that you do not miss an opportunity to collect evidence.
Save Any Correspondence Relating to the Incident
While sexual harassment often leaves little direct evidence, you should do your best to provide all the documentation you can. If you have any emails, texts, or other messages in which your boss uses inappropriate language or makes harassing statements, you should save them in a place where he or she cannot delete them. Likewise, you should save any written statements implying that you might be fired or punished if you take action against your employer.
Sometimes, sexual harassment takes the form of inappropriate images that are sent over text or email. In that case, you should save those images, even if you need to take a screenshot to prevent them from disappearing.
Find Out If There Are Witnesses Willing to Speak on Your Behalf
When workplace harassment occurs in front of other employees, clients, vendors, or even bystanders, you may be able to add their testimonies to the body of evidence in your favor. If you know that someone saw your boss acting inappropriately towards you, have your lawyer reach out to that person in order to hear what they observed and determine whether or not their testimony could be valuable.
Make a Formal Report With Your Employer
In many sexual harassment cases, a formal complaint must be filed with HR before a claim can be submitted. In your report, you should note the date of the incident and the fact that you would like it to be addressed. Your lawyer can help you understand how to make the report and what language to use in your statements.
Gather Documents Relating to Your Employment
During your case, your lawyer will need access to your employment agreement and any other relevant documents, like performance reviews or a termination letter. First, you will need to prove to the court that you had a valid employer-employee relationship with your boss when the harassment occurred. Second, if you need to be reinstated into your position and compensated for lost wages, the court will look to your contract to determine your job responsibilities and rate of pay.
Keep a Journal
Sexual harassment can often occur as a series of small acts that persist over a long period of time. Keeping a journal can prevent you from forgetting significant incidents and may help your lawyer understand where to look for additional evidence.
When Is Harassment in the Workplace Illegal?
Your ability to feel safe at work is a right that is protected by the Missouri Department of Labor. Sexual harassment is a broad term that can encompass anything from an off-hand comment to threats of violence to physical touching. So, under what circumstances could you have a case against your employer?
The Inappropriate Behavior Is Persistent
A court is more likely to side with you if you are able to demonstrate a pattern of inappropriate behavior as opposed to claiming that one incident occurred. That said, if you experienced a single incident that was particularly egregious and/or gave you strong direct evidence, your case could hold up regardless of the fact that your boss did not act inappropriately towards you multiple times.
You Are Working in a Hostile Environment
Missouri employment law specifically states that employees may not be subjected to a hostile work environment at the hands of their employer. A hostile work environment is defined as a space in which you constantly feel threatened, targeted, or intimidated. Most employees who are experiencing this type of harassment report that they are unable to focus on their work.
You Are Experiencing Discrimination in the Workplace
Sometimes, sexual harassment is done to target women in the workplace, making it a form of discrimination as well. Discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that violates a number of state and local statutes. For legal purposes, it is defined as treating an employee differently based on his or her:
- National origin
- Genetic information
- Pregnancy status
- Marital status
In addition to sexual harassment, discrimination can occur if an employee is fired, passed over for a promotion, inadequately compensated, or denied standard company resources based on one of the traits listed above. If you are being discriminated against based on your sex, you might experience sexual harassment in conjunction with other forms of discriminatory behavior.
Speak With a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri
Our attorneys have the experience you need to feel confident standing up for fair treatment against your employer. We will handle your case with compassion and discretion while fighting to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve according to both anti-harassment and whistleblower laws. To schedule a free consultation with a sexual harassment lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri, reach out to our law offices at Holman Schiavone, LLC.