A man working with a woman co-worker putting her hand on his shoulder.

When you report sexual harassment in the workplace, you expect your employer to take it seriously and take action. But what if your complaint falls on deaf ears, or worse, is outright ignored? It’s a situation that can leave you feeling helpless, frustrated, and betrayed. For example, imagine reporting repeated, unwanted advances from a supervisor, only to have your claims dismissed without investigation. Or consider the distress of a co-worker’s inappropriate comments being laughed off by HR.

In these moments, it’s crucial to remember that you have legal options available. If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Holman Schiavone Law, LLC. Our skilled attorneys are ready to listen to your story and help you understand your rights. 

Take the first step towards standing up for yourself by calling us at 816-399-5149 for a free consultation today.

Understanding Your Rights Under Federal and State Law

The first line of defense against workplace sexual harassment is knowing your rights. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, sexual harassment is considered a form of sex-based discrimination prohibited in the workplace. This federal law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, obligating them to create a safe work environment with a clear zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

But the protections don’t stop there. Missouri state law further fortifies these rights, asserting that employers must maintain a harassment-free workplace and take immediate and effective action upon receiving valid sexual harassment complaints.

The Role of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal government agency responsible for:

  • Enforcing Title VII and combating employment discrimination, including workplace discrimination
  • Providing oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies
  • Ensuring compliance with federal laws that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.

Beyond enforcement, the EEOC investigates discrimination complaints, including sexual harassment cases, and can take legal action against employers who are found in violation of Title VII. This agency holds employers accountable for their obligations to provide a safe and harassment-free workplace.

Missouri’s Commitment to Preventing Workplace Harassment

Missouri aligns with federal efforts to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Employers in Missouri are legally required to:

  • Communicate a zero-tolerance approach
  • Implement effective policies for complaint and response
  • Provide anti-harassment training
  • Take prompt, fitting action upon receiving a valid complaint.

The Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) is entrusted with the task of addressing workplace sexual harassment complaints and enforcing the Missouri Human Rights Act. This state agency, much like the EEOC at the federal level, serves to uphold the rights of employees and hold employers accountable.

Reporting Sexual Harassment: The Complaint Process

Young women sitting in front of a computer, holding her head with both hands.Reporting sexual harassment at work is of utmost importance when you face it. By doing so, you not only stand up for your rights but also help others by bringing up the issue. A thorough complaint should document as many details as possible, such as:

  • Dates
  • Times
  • Locations
  • Specific actions or statements made
  • Any witnesses
  • Steps taken to report the harassment
  • Your employer’s responses

Reporting the issue to your employer, supervisor, or HR department is an essential step in addressing workplace sexual harassment. This action can help ensure that appropriate measures are taken to address the situation. If they dismiss or ignore your complaint, you can escalate the matter by filing a formal complaint with the EEOC.

Seeking Support from Human Resources or a Sympathetic Co-Worker

While it can feel incredibly isolating to be a victim of sexual harassment, remember that you are not alone. Seeking support from internal channels such as human resources can be a significant step in addressing the issue.

In addition to utilizing internal resources, don’t overlook the value of peer support. Being supported by co-workers can provide an informal network of assistance and can also validate your concern if others have witnessed or experienced similar harassment.

When Employers Fail: Recognizing Employer Negligence

Unfortunately, not all employers uphold their legal obligations to address sexual harassment. When employers fail to maintain a harassment-free workplace or neglect to take corrective actions upon receiving complaints, they can be held liable.

This failure is not only a breach of trust but can also have serious repercussions. Employers may face severe consequences such as punitive damages for knowingly ignoring harassment or for a supervisor’s harassment resulting in serious employment consequences such as termination or loss of wages.

The Consequences of Ignoring Sexual Harassment Claims

Unaddressed sexual harassment claims can result in a work environment where individuals feel sexually harassed, creating an atmosphere that would be considered intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Such a hostile work environment can cause significant emotional distress for employees subjected to or aware of the ongoing harassment. This emotional distress can lead to adverse career impacts, such as decreased job performance, absence from work, or even resignation. Additionally, it can lead to a decrease in company morale and productivity.

Legal Remedies: Pursuing Justice Beyond the Employer’s Response

Attorney meeting with a client, pointing to a computer screen.Unsatisfactory responses to a sexual harassment complaint by an employer allow you to explore further avenues for justice with the guidance of Holman Schiavone Law, LLC. Legal remedies can range from filing a complaint with the EEOC to pursuing a lawsuit against the employer. Holman Schiavone Law, LLC can provide you with the necessary education on the legal aspects of unwanted sexual behavior, including sexual assault, and guide you through the process of legal action against offenders.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint with the EEOC

If your employer fails to address your sexual harassment complaint, filing a claim with the EEOC is the next step. The EEOC accepts complaints in person by appointment, by mail, or through an online inquiry. Remember, you must file a complaint with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged harassment incident.

Supporting evidence for an EEOC complaint should include:

  • Any available emails
  • Documented discussions
  • Text messages
  • Witness statements
  • Digital images
  • Recordings

This evidence will be invaluable in substantiating your claim.

The Right to Sue and Civil Litigation

If the EEOC is unable to secure a satisfactory outcome, they will issue a right-to-sue letter. This letter authorizes you to initiate a lawsuit against your employer.

Filing a lawsuit is a significant step, and with the guidance of Holman Schiavone Law, LLC, it can be handled successfully. It involves a discovery stage where information is exchanged between parties, potentially leading to a settlement or court trial. Civil litigation in cases of workplace sexual harassment requires meticulous preparation, which includes gathering compelling evidence and securing proficient legal representation from a firm like Holman Schiavone Law, LLC.

Retaliation: Protecting Yourself Against Further Harm

Although the prospect of filing a sexual harassment complaint may be daunting due to fears of retaliation, remember that legal safeguards exist to protect you. It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who file complaints about sexual harassment, and implicated employers may incur severe penalties.

Retaliation can take many forms, including:

  • Firing
  • Escalating harassment
  • Negatively impacting working conditions
  • Denying deserved promotions or benefits

Staying vigilant and protecting yourself against possible retaliation is of paramount importance.

Documenting Retaliatory Behavior

Just as with sexual harassment claims, building a robust case against your employer necessitates documenting any retaliatory actions. Keeping records of any retaliatory acts can help establish patterns of behavior that could demonstrate unlawful retaliation following a sexual harassment complaint.

This documentation should include detailed information on retaliatory acts including:

  • Dates
  • Times
  • Locations
  • Names of witnesses

Such meticulous record-keeping can greatly assist in protecting your rights and supporting any further legal action.

Compensation for Your Suffering: Understanding Potential Damages

Victims of sexual harassment may endure significant emotional and financial distress. Recognizing this, the law provides a way for victims to be compensated for their suffering. You may be entitled to various forms of financial remediation as part of your compensation in legal cases.

Remedies can include:

  • Back pay awards for lost wages and benefits
  • Front pay for future wage losses if reinstatement is not viable
  • Compensatory damages for non-economic harm, such as emotional distress, harm to reputation, and out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills
  • Attorneys’ fees and legal costs for victorious plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases, ensuring they are not financially burdened by the costs of pursuing justice.

Take Action Against Unresponsive Employers with Holman Schiavone Law, LLC

When you’re facing a tough situation like workplace sexual harassment, it’s important to have someone you can trust to help you through it. That’s where the lawyers at Holman Schiavone Law, LLC come in. We focus on employment law and personal injury, and we’re committed to standing up for people who have been harassed or bullied.

Our attorneys will assist you in building a strong case by gathering evidence and ensuring that you receive fair treatment throughout the claims process. We are proud of our record in securing favorable outcomes for our clients, whether through negotiation or litigation.

Don’t let workplace sexual harassment go unchallenged. Take control of your situation by reaching out to the dedicated team at Holman Schiavone Law, LLC. Our experienced attorneys are poised to defend your rights and guide you through your legal options with compassion and experience. 

Call us now at 816-399-5149 for a free consultation, and let us advocate for the justice and respect you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Federal and state laws provide a strong framework for protecting employees against sexual harassment in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex, which encompasses sexual harassment. Additionally, Missouri state law requires employers to take prompt and effective action when dealing with harassment complaints, ensuring a safe working environment for all employees.

The EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is instrumental in combating workplace sexual harassment. This federal agency enforces laws like Title VII, investigates harassment claims, and has the authority to take legal action against employers who violate these laws. The EEOC’s involvement is vital in holding employers accountable and maintaining a harassment-free workplace.

Employers who neglect to properly address sexual harassment complaints can face significant repercussions. They may be ordered to pay punitive damages and could be subject to legal action resulting in serious employment consequences for the harasser. This neglect can also lead to a loss of employee trust and a damaged reputation for the company.

When an employer does not satisfactorily resolve a sexual harassment complaint, several legal options are available. You can file a complaint with the EEOC, which will investigate and may mediate a resolution. If the EEOC’s resolution is not sufficient, they can issue a right-to-sue letter, allowing you to pursue a lawsuit against your employer for their failure to act.

Yes, you can take legal action if you face retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation against an employee for engaging in a protected activity, such as filing a harassment complaint, is illegal under both federal and state laws. If you experience retaliation, document the behavior and consult with an attorney to explore your options for holding your employer accountable.