If you’re being sexually harassed at work, then the first thing you should do is report it to human resources at your company. If you have any evidence of the harassment, then take it with you when you make your report. If your company refuses to act, then you need to talk to a lawyer for harassment who can guide you through what to do next.
What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Workplace sexual harassment comes in many forms, and you’re protected by federal law no matter what form the harassment takes.
You can make a sexual harassment complaint based on things such as:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Sexual advances
- Inappropriate and unwelcome comments or jokes
- Inappropriate and unwanted touching
- Other sexual harassment situations
You can be sexually harassed in person or via text messages, emails, and other forms of digital communication. It can come from someone of the same or opposite sex. It happens to people regardless of national origin, gender identity, and sexual orientation. If you’re receiving sexual comments or touches, then you must take steps to make the harassment stop. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects you from all harassment.
How Common Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Similar Environments?
As of the early 2020s, 56% of all surveyed employees in the United States have stated they’ve been sexually harassed at work. Many of those who’ve been harassed are women, but a substantial number of men are also harassed in the workplace each year. However, women are three times more likely to experience sexual harassment at work.
In many countries, surveys and reports show that the number of people who’ve been sexually harassed at work over the past 20 years hasn’t changed very much. Please know that you’re not alone if you’ve been sexually harassed at work.
Sexual harassment is also common in schools and colleges. Research has shown up to two-thirds of students experienced sexual harassment at college. A study from 2000 shows over 80% of high school girls and over 70% of high school boys experienced harassment at school.
However, as of the early 2020s, a report from The University of Missouri shows a decline in sexual harassment cases. Hopefully, this decline will continue at work and at school.
How Does Reporting Sexual Harassment Work?
If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment, then you should go to human resources at your company and make an internal complaint. From there, leave the issue in the hands of the HR department. In most companies, the complaint will be taken seriously, and the situation will be dealt with to ensure nobody else is sexually harassed.
Each company has a different protocol regarding reporting any sexual harassment, sex discrimination, or another form of discriminatory or offensive behavior. Your company’s protocol should be outlined in your employee handbook. Ask HR if you need help making a report.
If your workplace does nothing to stop sexual harassment from occurring again, then contact a sexual harassment attorney. Harassment lawyers are always willing to help. If your company doesn’t take action, then you can also report the incident to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Your attorney may also recommend you report your workplace to a state agency if the company doesn’t take action. The state agency that deals with discrimination and harassment in Missouri workplaces is The Missouri Department of Labor.
Why You Should Always Report Sexual Harassment
You Can’t Take Legal Action Without Reporting It
You must file a complaint with human resources before you can take legal action and file a workplace sexual harassment claim.
If you file a complaint and your company doesn’t respond, then you need to contact a lawyer for harassment as soon as possible so you can file a lawsuit. Your lawyer may advise you to report your workplace to a government agency if your company hasn’t taken action against your harasser.
In some cases, you may be able to take legal action even if your company deals with the situation. You may have the right to sue the person who sexually harassed you. Seeking advice from an attorney for harassment will let you know whether or not you can sue in your specific case.
You Can Protect Others If You Report It
You can protect yourself and other employees from further harassment. If your company terminates the harasser’s employment after you report the harassment, then you’re protecting everyone else at the company from experiencing inappropriate comments, requests for sexual favors, and other forms of harassment.
If you file a lawsuit after your company fails to act, then your lawsuit may also result in the person who sexually harassed you being fired.
It’s understandable to be nervous about filing a sexual harassment complaint at work, but it’s not just you that you’re protecting. Everyone at your company benefits when you file a sexual harassment complaint or any form of discrimination complaint. Your company firing a harasser can also show bad-natured employees what could happen to them if they sexually harass other employees.
You Can Be Compensated After Reporting It
You may be entitled to compensation for what you’ve been through. You won’t be able to receive compensation unless you report sexual harassment to human resources, then to an attorney.
If human resources find you were denied a promotion or fired because you refused your employer’s sexual advances, then the company may offer to compensate you for lost income, and they may reinstate your position.
Your employer engaging in adverse employment actions is a violation of your civil rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If you have to take legal action after adverse employment actions are taken against you, then you can win further compensation for what you’ve been through.
What Can I Be Compensated for If I Report Sexual Harassment?
If your harassment lawyer determines you can sue your employer after experiencing sexual harassment, then you can be compensated for your emotional distress. How much you win varies depending on your case, and your attorney for harassment will be able to calculate a sum after evaluating your case.
The more severe your harassment was, then the higher the settlement you can win. For example, if you were physically assaulted, then you’ll win more than somebody who experienced verbal-only harassment.
Harassment lawyers can advise on your specific case after a consultation. However, ensure you make an internal complaint before contacting a harassment attorney.
If you were injured during a sexual assault, then you can be compensated for your medical expenses. You may also be awarded non-economic damages for your physical pain and suffering.
You can also be reimbursed if you had to seek medical attention to prevent pregnancy after an assault.
Loss of Income
If you left your job or were fired after experiencing sexual harassment, then you can be compensated for any money you would’ve earned if you were still working for the company.
If you find a new job, then you can be reimbursed for the time you spent unemployed between leaving your old job and accepting a new one. If your new job pays less than your old one, then you may receive a sum intended to make up the difference between your old and new salary for a period of time, though this depends on the circumstances.
Losing out on work assignments you’d usually have gotten can also lead to lost income. If you can show you missed these assignments because you reported harassment, then you may receive compensation. You can also have your position reinstated if your harasser fired you when you denied their advances or reported harassment.
What If the Person Who Harassed Me Isn’t Fired?
If you report harassment to human resources and they don’t fire the person who harassed you, then you can take legal action. You shouldn’t have to deal with the hostile work environment harassment causes, so having the harasser fired can be one of the things you’re fighting for when trying to win a sexual harassment lawsuit.
If your company didn’t fire the harasser, then you should speak to a harassment attorney about your options. Your harasser being demoted or receiving a warning often isn’t enough to make you feel safe in your workplace again.
Feeling unsafe can impact your job performance, leading to poor performance evaluations that could lead to you losing your job.
Can I Lose My Job for Reporting Harassment in the Workplace?
You cannot legally be fired because you reported harassment in the workplace. If you believe you were fired because of the report you made, then you need to speak to an employment attorney. It’s highly likely that you have a case for wrongful termination. Winning a wrongful termination case against the person who terminated your employment can get you your job back. You can also be reimbursed for lost income and emotional distress.
If you don’t wish to return to your old job, then you can be compensated for the time you spent unemployed before finding a new job. The person who terminated your employment may also be fired if you win your unlawful termination lawsuit. Ask your harassment lawyer about your options if you’ve been fired after you were sexually harassed or reported workplace sexual harassment.
If you find your employer has written something untruthful in a performance report or your personnel file after you reported harassment, then you should contact HR and your attorney, too. Your employer may be lying on your performance report to find an excuse to fire you after you made a harassment report.
Will Reporting Harassment in the Workplace Lose Me Future Employment Opportunities?
If you left your job after the harassment, or if you wish to change companies in the future, then having reported sexual harassment shouldn’t impact your future employment opportunities. The vast majority of businesses will be happy to employ somebody who has reported harassment at their previous job. If you feel you lost out on a position because you reported harassment, then you’ve likely been saved from working at a company you wouldn’t want to work for anyway.
If you put down your previous employer as a reference, then it would be worth asking companies who didn’t hire you why the company refused to employ you. It may be because your former employer is badmouthing you for you having reported workplace sexual harassment.
If you find that your former employer has been untruthfully badmouthing you to prospective employers, then you should contact an attorney. You may have a defamation case on your hands if your former employer is deliberately lying about you to sabotage your employment opportunities. Your former employer can only speak negatively about you if you behaved badly or displayed poor job performance.
Will I Have To Go to Court If I Report Sexual Harassment?
If you have to consult harassment lawyers after reporting sexual harassment, then you won’t always have to go to court. The vast majority of sexual harassment lawsuits can be settled without going to trial.
Your harassment lawyer will negotiate a settlement with your employer’s insurance company, and you should be paid your settlement without difficulty.
The case may go on for quite some time, but this is normal. A case lasting for years doesn’t mean it needs to go to trial to settle. However, there’s always a chance your case may need to go to court at any time.
Reasons You May Have To Go to Court for Reporting Sexual Harassment
If It’s Highly Complicated
Complicated cases have a higher chance of needing to go to trial to settle. There are various situations that can make your case more complicated, such as:
- Assault resulting in pregnancy
- Assault resulting in injuries
- There being multiple harassers
However, more complicated cases don’t always go to trial, and many can be settled outside of court.
If It Results in an Unlawful Termination
Being unlawfully fired after you report sexual harassment in the workplace can also complicate your case.
Unlawful termination is another area of workplace law, and unlawful termination cases can often be settled without going to trial. However, dealing with an unlawful termination case alongside a sexual harassment lawsuit can make the cases more complicated.
The complications in dealing with both cases at once may make it more likely that you’ll have to go to court.
If the Insurance Company Refuses to Settle
Sometimes your employer’s insurance company will refuse to settle. This often occurs when you’re seeking a high sum. The company may also refuse to settle or make you an offer at all if your employer refuses to accept liability for the sexual harassment that occurred.
Cases, where the insurance company refuses to pay out, will usually need to go before a judge and jury. Work with an attorney with courtroom experience just in case your case may have to go to trial.
Can I Still Take Action If I Accepted or Reciprocated the Advances?
If you reciprocated some of your harasser’s advances but later asked your harasser to stop, then you can still file a complaint and open a lawsuit.
The fact that you told the person to stop means you were no longer comfortable with their advances. Any further comments, touches, or other forms of sexually-based bad behavior are harassment.
You will have to disclose that you accepted or reciprocated the advances at first. In fact, the other side will try to use this as an argument in their defense. However, no means no, regardless of what you did before you became uncomfortable with the situation and asked your harasser to stop. Always report the harassment, even if you’re nervous that HR won’t believe you. Government agencies and laws are on your side.
What If the Person Who Harassed Me Is My Boss?
It doesn’t matter if the person who harassed you was your boss or just a co-worker with no power over you. Action must be taken, and you can still report the situation. Your workplace’s insurance company will have to pay out regardless of whether it was your boss or another co-worker.
In fact, it’s even more vital that you report harassment if the person who harassed you was your boss. They may have the power to terminate your employment, dock your salary, or deny you opportunities in the future because you denied their sexual advances.
The harasser may also be in a position of power over others who are in danger of experiencing harassment. Never be afraid to report your boss because company policy and federal law support you and not the harasser.
How Can an Attorney Help with a Sexual Harassment Claim?
By Helping You Follow Protocol
Proper protocol must be followed when you want to file a sexual harassment lawsuit. Consulting an attorney before you make moves to file a lawsuit ensures protocol is followed. Your attorney will talk you through what you must do, and they’ll be there to answer any questions or address any concerns. Working with an attorney ensures everything will be handled correctly.
Your attorney can also help you understand state laws and inform you of any government agencies you must inform of the harassment. Each state has its own anti-discrimination laws, and there are government agencies that enforce these laws. Your attorney will also inform you of any federal agency you must contact.
A federal agency that’s made aware of the situation can investigate your workplace if it seems these situations keep cropping up at the company. If the federal government agency decides to take action, then you’ll know you’ve done a very good thing for anyone who’s been harassed at your company.
By Dealing with the Paperwork
Lawsuits come with an awful lot of paperwork that you’ll have to deal with. It’s often complicated and must be done completely correctly. Your attorney can take care of all the paperwork, so you don’t have to. This will make the case substantially easier for you to deal with.
By Helping Gather Evidence
You’ll need as much evidence as possible to help you build and win your sexual harassment case. Showing evidence of people asking for sexual favors, creating a hostile work environment, or committing acts of sexual violence will help you strengthen your case.
Helpful types of evidence include:
- Text messages or emails containing sexual comments
- Footage from security cameras showing physical harassment
- Statements from witnesses who saw you being harassed
- Statements from anyone who knows or believes your harasser is lying about your performance evaluations
You’ll also need evidence that you reported the harassment to HR and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
By Building Your Case
Your attorney can start building a case once you’ve given them enough evidence to support your claim. Share as much evidence with them as possible so they can build you a strong case. They can also advise on what kind of evidence would be helpful in your case.
Your attorney will also ensure you have evidence that you made a report to the human resources department before marking a legal complaint. If your company refuses to provide evidence of your complaint, then your attorney may subpoena it.
By Calculating Your Damages
Your attorney will advise that you fight to have a person who harassed you fired. Your attorney can also help you calculate economic and non-economic damages you may be entitled to based on your situation.
Economic damages are calculated based on your medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial losses. Non-economic damages are calculated using a formula. Your attorney can also discuss punitive damages with you. Punitive damages are imposed to punish or make an example of the harasser, but they’re not relevant to every case.
By Representing You in Court
If you need to go to court, then your attorney will be happy to represent you. They’ll present your case in front of the court and do everything they can to win.
Your attorney may also suggest you take a lower settlement to avoid going to trial if they believe your case isn’t strong enough to get you a good outcome in court. Your attorney knows from experience that some cases don’t have strong enough evidence to win in court, so listen to their advice if they say it’s best to avoid going to trial.
By Being on Standby in the Future
Sometimes harassment is a set of isolated incidents from a single person. However, other times it’s a recurring issue at your company. Your lawyer can help you with future situations, and you can recommend your attorney to co-workers if needed.
Many women and men are hesitant to report when they experience sexual harassment in the workplace. You may be uncomfortable talking about the situation, or you might fear for your job security. However, always report workplace sexual harassment to human resources and talk to a lawyer when needed. Contact Holman Schiavone, LLC to get in touch with bullying and harassment lawyers to talk about your case.