Sadly, sexual harassment remains a serious problem in workplaces across America, and Kansas City is no exception. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, it’s important to understand your rights and options. Your first step is to get in contact with a work sexual harassment lawyer who can advise you on the best steps to take in your case.

8 Steps to Take if You’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work

1. Determine if It’s Sexual Harassment

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision. There are two main forms of sexual harassment:

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

This type of sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or someone with authority makes an employment decision based on submission to or rejection of sexual conduct. For example, a supervisor promising a promotion in exchange for sexual favors constitutes quid pro quo harassment.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

This form of harassment occurs when the sexual conduct is so severe or pervasive that it creates a workplace that’s intimidating, hostile, or offensive. It can include behaviors like unwanted sexual comments, unwelcome physical contact, or the display of sexually explicit images.

2. Get a Kansas City Sexual Harassment Lawyer

If you are considering filing a complaint or taking legal action, an experienced employment attorney can be your strongest ally. An attorney can discuss your rights, potential legal remedies, and the best course of action based on your specific circumstances. The process of filing a sexual harassment complaint can be complex, and an attorney can assist you with paperwork, in communication with agencies, and in preparation for any investigative hearings or interviews.

Most of all, an experienced attorney will be there to fight for your rights throughout the entire process, ensuring your employer is held accountable for any unlawful conduct.

3. Document the Harassment

Keep a detailed record of all incidents, including dates, times, witnesses, and what was said or done. Save all emails, texts, or other communications related to the harassment.

4. Report the Harassment to Your Employer

Most employers have internal policies for reporting sexual harassment, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with your employer’s policy and follow it precisely. This policy is usually included in the employee handbook or may be available through the human resources (HR) department. Your company policy should outline the complaint procedure and identify who you should report the harassment to.

Your company policy may designate a specific person or department to receive sexual harassment complaints. This could be a supervisor, HR manager, or other designated individual, but if the harasser is your supervisor or the person designated to receive complaints, look for whether the policy allows for an alternative reporting channel. If it does not, and you don’t feel safe in following these procedures, talk to your lawyer about what to do next.

Even if a verbal report is initially allowed, always follow up with a written report documenting the harassment. This creates a clear record and helps ensure the specifics of your complaint are accurately captured. In your written report, include:

  • Dates, times, and locations of incidents of harassment
  • A detailed description of the harassing conduct
  • The names of any witnesses
  • Any actions you have already taken to address the harassment
  • The remedy or resolution you are seeking

Retain a copy of your written complaint for your own records, and, in your report, specifically request a prompt and thorough investigation into your allegations.

5. Consider Reporting to Law Enforcement

In some cases, the conduct may rise to the level of a criminal offense, like sexual assault. You have the right to report what happened to the police, even if your employer is already investigating the situation. Talk to us about your specific situation to learn more.

6. Protect Yourself from Retaliation

Sexual harassment thrives in silence, and many victims hesitate to report harassment for fear of retaliation from their employer. The law protects you from such repercussions. Federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Missouri Human Rights Act, and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination (KAAD) all expressly prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment.

These protections extend to reporting harassment to a supervisor, HR department, or other company official; participating in an investigation into sexual harassment allegation; and opposing any discriminatory conduct even if you weren’t the direct target of harassment. Retaliatory actions can be subtle or overt and may include:

  • Termination of employment
  • Demotion or transfer to a less desirable position
  • Reduction in pay or benefits
  • Increased scrutiny of your work performance
  • Unfavorable performance reviews
  • Being ostracized or excluded from work activities
  • Threats or intimidation

If you believe you’ve been targeted in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, document everything you can. Keep copies of emails, performance reviews, or any other evidence supporting your claim. Talk with a Kansas City work sexual harassment lawyer right away.

7. File a Complaint With the EEOC or State Authorities

Both federal and state laws govern sexual harassment in the workplace. If your employer doesn’t adequately address your complaint or if you want to pursue further action, you may consider filing a complaint the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), The Kansas Human Rights Commission (KHRC), or the Missouri Department of Labor, depending on where you work and what your specific situation is.

Once you file a complaint, the agency will investigate. The agency may try to facilitate a resolution between you and the employer. After an investigation, the agency will determine if there’s a reasonable basis to support your claim. If they find a violation, the agency may file a lawsuit on your behalf. Alternatively, it may give you a “right-to-sue” letter that allows you to pursue your own lawsuit.

8. Bring a Lawsuit

When internal company procedures fail to resolve the issue of sexual harassment, taking legal action might be necessary. This step involves filing a lawsuit against the harasser or your employer. Before proceeding, it’s crucial to understand the legal implications, including potential risks and benefits. A lawsuit can lead to compensation for damages like lost wages and emotional distress, but it also requires a significant commitment of time and resources. An experienced employment attorney can help you evaluate the strength of your case and the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

In many cases, sexual harassment claims are settled out of court. Settlement can offer a quicker resolution and more predictable outcome compared to a trial. However, this may also involve compromises. Going to trial could result in a more significant award, but it also carries the risk of losing the case, and it can be more stressful and time-consuming. Weighing the pros and cons of settlement versus trial is a decision that should be made with careful consideration and only with experiened legal advice.

Contact a Kansas City Work Sexual Harassment Lawyer 

At Holman Schiavone, LLC, our attorneys have a strong understanding of federal and state sexual harassment laws. If you’ve experienced this misconduct, we can help. Contact us at Holman Schiavone, LLC now for a confidential consultation to discuss your experience.