When someone faces sexual harassment at work, the emotional, psychological, and physical toll can be immense. In the midst of all that emotional upheaval, one aspect of the burden can get overlooked, and that’s the loss of wages. A Jackson County, Missouri sexual harassment lawyer knows how to keep all aspects of the case in balance, including making sure you don’t lose out on wages owed.
Recovering Damages for Lost Wages in a Sexual Harassment Case
Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t just about uncomfortable comments or unsolicited advances. The impact often extends to an individual’s ability to perform their job, leading to absenteeism, reduced hours, or even termination. This can mean lost wages for the victim.
Lost wages in this context refer to the actual earnings an individual would have received had they not been subjected to the harassment. This includes not only regular salaries but also bonuses, overtime, and other benefits. For example, if you had to take unpaid leave or were unjustly terminated because of the harassment, you’d likely have a claim for lost wages.
The Legal Framework for Recovering Lost Wages
In Missouri, the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) is the primary state legislation that addresses workplace discrimination and harassment. The Act makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on various grounds, including sex, and sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination under this Act. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers sexual harassment.
If you’re seeking compensation for lost wages due to sexual harassment in a Missouri workplace, you’d typically file a claim either with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or under the MHRA. Your lawyer can tell you the best way to get a positive outcome for your case.
Initial Steps Towards Recovery of Wages and Other Losses
Every instance of harassment, any consequent actions you took (like taking a leave of absence), and all communications with your employer about the harassment should be meticulously documented. Keep copies of any relevant emails, text messages, and other correspondence. These can serve as evidence to support your claim for lost wages.
Notify Your Employer
If you haven’t already, formally notify your employer about the harassment. This step is usually required before you can take any legal action. Missouri law and federal law require employers to take necessary actions to prevent and stop harassment, and failure to do so can strengthen your claim.
Seek Legal Counsel
We can’t stress enough how valuable legal guidance can be in these situations. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand your rights, guide you through the process, help you properly value your claim, and represent you in negotiations and if you decide to file a lawsuit.
Filing a Claim
The first formal step in the legal process involves filing a claim with the EEOC or the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). There are time limits, so, considering the emotional stress involved in these cases and the way it can interfere with a person’s ability to act, it’s important to contact a lawyer and get started as soon as possible.
Once your complaint is filed, the EEOC and MCHR go through a similar process. First, there will be an investigation, and they’ll request a response from the employer, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and conduct other necessary investigative actions. At the end of this process, they will render a decision.
If the EEOC or MCHR find probable cause that discrimination occurred, they might attempt to facilitate a settlement between you and the employer. If a settlement isn’t reached, they may file a lawsuit on your behalf. If they choose not to move forward, you’re typically granted the right to sue, allowing you to take the matter to court.
Taking Your Claim to Court
If you opt to proceed to court, either because of an unfavorable outcome or personal choice, the process becomes more complex. The onus is on you, the plaintiff, to demonstrate that the sexual harassment took place and that it directly led to your lost wages. This is where your documentation, witness testimonies, and any other evidence play a pivotal role.
Apart from lost wages, you might also be eligible for other forms of compensation, such as emotional distress, legal fees, and punitive damages, especially if the employer’s conduct was particularly egregious. It’s essential to be aware that there are caps on compensatory and punitive damages, however. The caps vary based on the size of the employer, but your attorney will guide you on what to expect.
Settlements Outside of Court
While taking a case to court might sometimes seem like the most direct route to justice, many sexual harassment claims actually result in settlements outside the courtroom. There are some advantages to going this route if it’s possible.
Settling outside of court can be less time-consuming, as well as cheaper, and can offer a more predictable outcome compared to the uncertainties of a trial. It also ensures a level of privacy, as court proceedings are public record, whereas settlements can often remain confidential.
Negotiating a Fair Settlement
A crucial aspect of settling is ensuring the compensation you get accurately reflects the lost wages and other damages you’ve suffered. While it might be tempting to accept an early offer to quickly move past the situation, always consult with your attorney to ensure the proposed amount truly compensates you for the harm that’s been done.
Things to Bear in Mind
Remember, when you accept a settlement, you usually relinquish your right to pursue any further legal actions regarding the same issue. This makes it even more crucial to ensure the settlement is comprehensive, and never to sign anything without having an attorney review it.
The Role of Your Jackson County, Missouri Sexual Harassment Lawyer
It might seem as if it should be quite simple to demonstrate how you’ve lost wages and get them compensated for, but complications are common. Employers often contest claims, or there might be unexpected difficulty in demonstrating the direct link between the harassment and your lost income.
Engaging a lawyer familiar with federal and Missouri laws and the local judicial system is the best way to safeguard your rights and ensure you are properly compensated for all damages. In situations as sensitive as workplace sexual harassment, having an experienced a legal professional on your side means that you can focus on healing and moving forward, knowing that your rights are being zealously defended and justice is pursued.
Choose a Law Firm Dedicated to Justice
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unfortunate reality for many, and its consequences, including lost wages, can be severe. Remember that you have rights, and there are avenues to help you regain what was unjustly taken from you.
At Holman Schiavone, LLC, we are ready to support you through this process. For us, justice isn’t just a concept: it’s something that should have a tangible outcome in the life of a victim. If you or someone you know has faced workplace harassment and suffered loss, including the loss of wages, reach out to us today. Let’s work together to set things right.