Harassment lawsuits are often the only opportunity for a victim to gain fair compensation for a very distressing ordeal and disruption to their work, career, finances, or school life. The average settlement in harassment lawsuits is around $50,000, but this figure can vary immensely based on the duration and severity of the harassment, the extent of your damages, and various other factors.
The most effective and accurate way to learn the value of your particular lawsuit is to have an experienced harassment attorney evaluate your case. A lawyer for harassment can calculate all of your damages and negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company to win a favorable settlement payout. Let’s look at the different types of harassment and the major factors that determine the value of any harassment lawsuit.
What Constitutes Harassment?
It can sometimes be hard to know what kind of behaviors constitute harassment. While working together, people often joke around, and it’s important to distinguish between occasional teasing or offhand comments and harassment deserving of a lawsuit.
Teasing, joking, and similar behavior breaks the law when it is unwelcome, frequent, and extreme enough to make your workplace intolerable. When you believe a reasonable person would find someone’s behavior intimidating or outright hostile, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
And if any aspect of your work or career is conditioned on you enduring the harassment, you should certainly speak to a lawyer for harassment forthwith. A lawsuit is also often appropriate when an employer is demonstrating reckless indifference by intentionally ignoring ongoing unwelcome sexual advances or other harassment. In these cases, you can file a lawsuit against both the individual defendant and your employer.
Three Main Types of Harassment
Workplace harassment can take many different forms. There are three main categories: visual, verbal, and physical.
Someone can be subjected to harassment visually. This might include leering, obscene gestures, sexually explicit images, posters, or computer wallpapers.
Being subjected to any pornographic, vulgar, or violent imagery may be considered visual harassment. This is often the hardest harassment to prove, as images considered harmless entertainment to one person might be offensive to another.
Slurs, insults, threats, name-calling, accusations, humiliating comments, or harmful remarks disguised as jokes might all be considered verbal harassment. This includes offensive or embarrassing comments communicated through text or email.
Typically, the more extensively such harassment has been spread throughout an organization, the larger the size of the lawsuit. Many victims find such public communicative harassment intimidating, humiliating, and extremely upsetting.
Any kind of unwanted physical contact may also constitute harassment. Inappropriate physical conduct can range from unwelcome hugging to sexual touching, all the way to physical assault, and is taken very seriously in a court of law.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The majority of harassment cases are sexual harassment cases. Unwanted sexual advances and propositions of sexual favors in exchange for raises, promotions, or other work-related benefits are the clearest examples of sexual harassment.
Inappropriate behavior or comments of a sexual nature might also be considered sexual harassment if it makes the workplace intolerable for the victim. If you experience sexual harassment in any form, don’t hesitate to consult with a sexual harassment lawyer who can guide you through your rights to compensation with a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal law.
Other Workplace Harassment
Not all workplace harassment is sexual harassment. You may have grounds for a lawsuit if you experience discriminatory harassment based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, or age.
Any kind of bullying, physical harassment, or threatening behavior is also unacceptable under the law. Online harassment and retaliatory harassment are also deemed unacceptable.
School Bullying and Cyberbullying
Unfortunately, school bullying and cyberbullying are common among children. Bullying can cause a great deal of pain and suffering and emotional distress in the victim.
Many parents don’t realize that they may be able to take legal action when bullying occurs. You may file a lawsuit against any organization that fails in its legal responsibility to protect your children from bullying, harassment, and violence.
School administrators, teachers, coaches, and caregivers are duty-bound to do everything within reason to protect the children in their care. If these individuals become aware that bullying is occurring but fail to take appropriate action, they can be considered negligent in their duty of care, and you may potentially pursue compensation from them.
What Determines the Value of a Harassment Settlement?
The value of an average settlement in a harassment lawsuit largely depends on the extent and severity of the harassment. And there are various other contributing factors.
How much compensation is awarded is often affected by how many employees are involved in the lawsuit. Class-action lawsuits with multiple plaintiffs against a single employer tend to win higher settlements for each victim.
A sexual harassment claim with ten victims, for example, will tend to have more evidence and be more believable before a jury than the same claim with a single plaintiff. It helps that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is more likely to become involved in harassment lawsuits with multiple plaintiffs.
The EEOC is a federal government organization formed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Any lawsuit the EEOC throws its legal might behind tends to win much higher settlements.
Quid pro quo harassment cases are also more likely to win higher compensation. Quid pro quo harassment most commonly involves an individual in a superior position demanding sexual favors in return for work-related benefits.
Any lawsuit involving punitive damages against the employer will also often win a far higher settlement. Calculating punitive damages, back pay, front pay, and all applicable damages often requires an experienced harassment lawyer.
A Harassment Attorney Can Increase the Value of Your Settlement
Whether or not a plaintiff retains an attorney is usually a strong determining factor in the size of the final settlement received. Whether you’re filing a sexual harassment lawsuit or any other kind of harassment lawsuit, you may benefit hugely from a skillful attorney for harassment who can gather evidence and negotiate a favorable settlement on your behalf.
In addition to experience and knowledge of federal law, a lawyer can also ensure that you don’t make costly mistakes during the legal process. Such mistakes include failing to document your experiences, waiting too long to take action, discussing the details of your case on social media, and accepting a settlement offer too early.
One of the most important benefits a law firm or attorney for harassment provides is the ability to calculate your damages in full. Without knowing what damages you’re entitled to, you can easily leave money on the table in a lawsuit.
What Damages Can You Seek To Recover?
In any lawsuit, a settlement comprises various damages. Each damage is an amount of money claimed for a specific harm the plaintiff has suffered because of the defendant.
Generally speaking, the more damages you can claim, the greater the total settlement figure. In a typical sexual harassment case, the plaintiff may pursue four types of damages: back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and legal fees.
You may seek to recover any wage loss or other financial loss you’ve suffered since the date you were sexually harassed until the date the case is resolved. This is called back pay.
If the harassment caused you to lose a raise or promotion, back pay is designed to recover the money you missed out on. Likewise, if you were fired, back pay recovers your lost wages.
Back pay might also include missed sick pay, vacation pay, retirement, or pension benefits. And it may include health insurance contributions and any other financial loss resulting from the incident.
Limits on Back Pay
Ordinarily, federal law limits back pay to a period of two years before the lawsuit filing date. To be awarded back pay, you must also show a good faith effort to find a new job between the filing date and the lawsuit’s final judgment.
If you quit your job or were fired as a result of being sexually harassed, your former employer is legally obliged under federal law to return you to your former position. But experiences of illegal sexual harassment tend to sour a workplace, making it untenable to return to, especially following a lawsuit.
In these situations, front pay is often awarded to compensate the plaintiff for the wage loss suffered while searching for a new job. This includes any job search costs you face. As with back pay, front pay is usually only awarded when the plaintiff shows a good faith effort to find a new job.
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
Sexual harassment settlements and compensation for any harassing behavior may also include various punitive and compensatory damages. Compensatory damages in harassment claims may include damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering.
Front pay and back pay are clear economic compensatory damages for wage loss. In addition to this, you may have also incurred medical bills if your health was affected. These medical bills should also be included in your compensatory damages.
The jury may also award punitive damages. These are damages meant to punish particularly bad behavior on behalf of the defendant. When awarded, these damages can raise the total compensation to a far higher level than the average settlement.
Punitive damages may be awarded in a sexual harassment case or any harassment lawsuit when the employer acted with indifference to the victim’s plight. If upper management or human resources perpetrated the harassment or were aware of the harassing behavior but did nothing to stop it, they might be punished with punitive damages.
With many sexual harassment claims, the plaintiff may find their legal fees covered by the defendant. This would include the costs of your sexual harassment lawyer, legal team, and any court fees and filing fees.
Federal Law Caps on Damages
The damages awarded in a harassment lawsuit are capped under both federal and state law. Punitive damages, in particular, are prevented from becoming excessive.
In Missouri, punitive damages may not exceed five times the total of back pay, front pay, and other damages, or $500,000, whichever is the greater amount. Damage caps may also vary depending on the size of the employer. An experienced lawyer can explain all the damages and damage caps applicable to your case.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or experienced any other form of harassment, contact Contact Holman Schiavone, LLC for a free consultation. Our experienced harassment lawyers can provide legal representation and do their utmost to recover full and fair compensation for your losses.