As much as we like to think that society has evolved to the point where employees can perform their jobs without fear of sexual harassment, that is not the case. If you have been the target of unwelcome sexual advances and your employer is not responsive to your requests for help, contacting a workplace sexual harassment lawyer is the first step to pursuing justice for the wrong committed against you. 

A lawyer for sexual harassment at work will help you seek compensation for the harm the harassment caused you. In addition, since a workplace sexual harassment attorney is knowledgeable about the intricacies of the laws pertaining to sexual harassment in the workplace, they will be able to help you make the wisest legal decisions for your situation. 

Are You Facing Unwelcome Sexual Advances at Work?

When you’re dealing with sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed due to the sensitive nature of the issue you’re facing. Unfortunately, that may make you hesitate to contact an employment attorney. While you may be tempted to avoid seeking legal help so that you don’t have to share your experiences, remember that you are not alone in your experience with sexual harassment and that employers need to be held responsible for providing a safe workplace.

Sexual harassment attorneys understand how traumatic experiencing sexual harassment and a hostile work environment can be. They will support you if filing a claim against your employer is your best course of action. Scheduling a free consultation with an experienced workplace sexual harassment attorney will allow you to discuss the specifics of your circumstances with someone knowledgeable and understanding and help you understand your legal options.

A woman against the wall with a male coworker with his hand on the wall next to her.

Contact a Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorney

Every individual deserves to be able to work without being subjected to harassment in the workplace or experiencing negative employment action for filing a complaint with human resources.

If you are like many individuals, you may wonder if the incident that occurred at your job is eligible for an actionable sexual harassment claim or wonder what defines sexual harassment. A workplace sexual harassment attorney in Kansas City can help you determine if the incidents in question fit the legal definition of sexual harassment.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Thanks to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal law makes it illegal for employers to allow someone to be harassed because of their sex. Despite this, many victims wonder if what has happened to them fits the definition of harassment. 

Any unwelcome sexually charged behavior in the workplace that occurs because of your gender is typically considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may occur because the harasser is pursuing the victim sexually, or the harasser may be tormenting the victim because of their sexual identity or gender. 

Impact over intent

The effect of the harasser’s behavior defines the action as sexual harassment, not their intent. This aspect of the definition exists to prevent harassers from trying to shirk responsibility for their actions by claiming “they didn’t mean anything” by a comment or that “it was a compliment.” It is essential to remember that just because the harasser doesn’t believe they are harassing the victim doesn’t mean that harassment has not occurred. 

A female colleague inappropriately touching the shoulder of a male colleague.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Anyone Can Be a Victim

When most people think of harassment in the workplace, they often picture a female employee being mistreated by a male employee in a position of authority. While, unfortunately, incidents of sexual harassment against female employees are reported more frequently than those against males, there are plenty of sexual harassment victims that are male. 

For example, the 2019 study “Measuring #MeToo” reported that one in 17 men and one in seven women quit a job, found a new job, or sought a new job because of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. This data shows that sexual harassment impacts everyone.

Additionally, the person harassing does not have to be the opposite sex of the victim. The victim’s sex can be the same as the harasser’s.

Is Sexual Harassment Only Unwanted Sexual Advances?

Some employees believe they must have experienced sexual assault or unwanted sexual advances to have an actionable sexual harassment claim. This belief is untrue, as sexual harassment includes things such as requests for sexual favors, unwanted physical conduct of a sexual nature, sex discrimination, and verbal harassment of a sexual nature.

A lawyer for sexual harassment at work can help you seek justice if you have been sexually harassed. Some common forms of sexual harassment include the following:

  • Poor treatment of a victim because of their sexual orientation
  • Sexual innuendos
  • Unwanted sexual conduct
  • Lewd or offensive conduct
  • Demeaning comments about a person’s sex
  • Physical harassment 
  • Offensive comments about a person’s body because of their sex 
  • Sexual advances
  • Sexual assault 

Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes two types of sexual harassment claims. Employees who have been sexually harassed will want to talk to an attorney for harassment to help them determine which category fits their situation. 

A female employee by herself while male coworkers jeer at her in the background.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment is a form of harassment that occurs when the harasser is in a position of power over the victim. It takes place when the harasser requests sexual favors in return for a workplace benefit, either directly or indirectly. 

For example, the workplace benefit could be something given to the employee, like a pay increase, promotion, or a more favorable schedule. Alternatively, when this harassment occurs, the harasser could threaten the employee with something detrimental if they do not acquiesce to their sexual demands, such as losing hours, a demotion, or even termination.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Hostile work environment harassment takes place when the harasser’s behavior is ongoing and aggressive enough that it fosters a negative environment that damages the victim’s job performance. Where quid pro quo harassment can only occur when the harasser is in a position of authority over the victim, any coworker or customer can create a hostile work environment.

This form of harassment is challenging to recognize because comments can be sporadic or misinterpreted as a joke. Some common examples of behavior that might contribute to a hostile workplace include lewd jokes or remarks, unwanted touching, repeatedly asking for a date, or displaying offensive or sexual pictures in shared workspaces.

Reporting Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is always the fault of the harasser, but for a victim to have the greatest chance at a positive outcome for their case, they should follow specific steps when reporting sexual harassment. While the idea that the employee victim of sexual harassment must follow particular actions to improve their odds of having a favorable outcome seems absurd, how you report sexual harassment can impact the outcome of your case. 

Tell the Individual to Stop if Possible

Depending on your situation, you may feel uncomfortable asking your coworker to stop their inappropriate behavior. However, if you feel comfortable, tell them their unwelcome conduct is unacceptable and that they need to stop. 

If you tell the harasser to stop and they do not, this will help bolster your sexual harassment lawsuit if your situation escalates to the point where you have to hire a sexual harassment in the workplace lawyer. Also, there is a slight chance that the person harassing you may not realize their interactions are unwanted and constitute workplace sexual harassment. Alerting them to this fact may be enough to cause the behavior to stop.

Put Your Safety First

If you feel unsafe confronting someone who has sexually harassed you, you should not approach them. Your safety should be your top priority. That you feel unsafe approaching the harasser is something you will want to note and share when you report the incidents.

Follow Company Policy For Reporting Harassing Conduct

Most companies have an employee handbook detailing the steps that an employee being sexually harassed should follow when reporting an offensive work environment. Sexual harassment cases are more successful in court when the employee follows the guidelines for making a harassment complaint outlined in the employee handbook. 

Workplace harassment is something that reputable companies take seriously, which means they should have a set protocol for reacting to sexual harassment. Following the protocol highlights your adherence to company policies and serves as evidence that you tried to resolve the situation in a professional manner.

Maintain Your Composure

Although you may be understandably upset over your situation, you will want to do your best to be composed when reporting the harassment. Therefore, you will want to craft your report carefully, detailing the harasser’s behavior and how it made you feel. 

Filing a written report and retaining a copy for your records is essential. If you cannot reach a solution with your employer and have to hire a lawyer for harassment, you will want a paper trail establishing your efforts to address your workplace harassment. 

Contact Your Company’s Human Resources Department

Typically your employee handbook will direct you to file an administrative complaint with your human resources department regarding the hostile work environment you are experiencing. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 holds employers responsible for preventing workplace sexual misconduct. HR should be prepared to help you address the issue to keep the workplace free of sexual harassment.

Don’t Excuse Their Behavior

When reporting inappropriate conduct, many victims may instinctively downplay the harassment. Sometimes even when you know someone’s actions are unacceptable, telling HR about their behavior can be challenging. 

Remember that the company is responsible for providing you with a safe workplace free from harassment. So don’t minimize what happened to you. Be truthful in your statement. If, later on, you hire a lawyer for sexual harassment at work, you won’t want to have a record of you downplaying the wrongs committed against you.

Keep a Record of Harassing Conduct

Keep a thorough record of the workplace sexual harassment you endure. While writing down incidents you’d rather forget may sound unpleasant, your notes will help prove that the behavior of the alleged harasser constitutes sexual harassment. 

You’ll want to record the date of inappropriate actions, such as the harasser requesting sexual favors, making offensive comments, and other forms of workplace sexual harassment. Even if you are not sure if an action is considered sexual harassment or not, make a note of it. 

Build Your Sexual Harassment Case

If you end up contacting sexual harassment lawyers about your situation, they can advise you on whether the incidents are considered workplace harassment. One of the best things a victim of sexual harassment can do is take detailed notes about incidents of sexual harassment.

These records will be valuable in court, as they show that you were concerned enough over the incidents to log them. Additionally, your records will help you remember the details of events if you are questioned about them in court months later.

Report Harassment to the Appropriate Government Agency

If reporting harassment in the workplace to your supervisors or the appropriate administrative agency hasn’t resolved the issue, you will want to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You will need to let them know that you reported sexual harassment in the workplace and your employer did nothing to prevent sexual harassment from continuing. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will attempt to resolve the issue with your employer, and if your employer is uncooperative, the EEOC will issue you a right-to-sue letter. This letter essentially states that you have followed the proper channels that any reasonable person would to address the harassment, and your employer is failing to provide you with a safe workplace.

Hire an Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Schedule a free consultation with an attorney for harassment to discuss the harassment in the workplace you are experiencing. A harassment lawyer will be able to help you prove the validity of the sexual harassment you’re suffering.

After you have been granted a right to sue letter, you and your lawyer will begin to build your harassment in the workplace lawsuit. Your lawyer will work to prepare the strongest sexual harassment lawsuit possible to guarantee the best possible outcome for your case. 

A woman holding up her hand to imply "stop".

When to Approach Human Resources

Knowing when to involve HR is crucial for a successful resolution. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Document instances of harassment.
  2. Collect any existing evidence.
  3. Contemplate seeking advice and assistance from an employment attorney.
  4. Officially present a sexual harassment complaint to HR.

We recommend contacting HR as soon as you become aware of any inappropriate behavior and making sure to submit an official complaint within 180 days of the incident. HR is responsible for preventing retaliation against individuals reporting harassment, protecting complainants from adverse actions, providing employee and leader training, and establishing a complaint-handling plan.

Understanding Your Legal Rights: State and Federal Laws on Sexual Harassment 

What Legal Rights Do I Have as a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

State and federal laws define and condemn discrimination across the United States. Federal law applies to all states, while Missouri state law applies specifically to Kansas City. An experienced sexual harassment attorney from Holman Schiavone Law, LLC can help Kansas City clients understand which laws specifically apply to their cases. However, two main laws govern sexual harassment.

The main state law is the Missouri Human Rights Act. This law defines various types of discrimination, which include sexual harassment. The primary federal law that also applies to Kansas City is the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Missouri Human Rights Act Prevents Discriminatory Practices Based on Sex

The MHRA is predominantly an employment law that prohibits many forms of discrimination in a work environment. Many sexual harassment attorneys have used this law to file suit against an employer for violations. It prohibits discrimination based on everything from religion to age and also includes sex. In addition, harassment on any of these grounds is also prohibited.

This employment law also requires companies to inform you of your rights. In many cases, this information can be found in your employee handbook. Employers are not allowed to retaliate against someone for filing a sexual harassment complaint to the Missouri Department of Labor. Speak to a Kansas City sexual harassment attorney to learn more about how this law may apply to your case.

Federal Laws: Title VII Protections

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created protected classes of citizens. Discrimination or misconduct against any of these classes is considered a federal offense. Although this law is most often known for prohibiting racial discrimination, it also includes gender-based harassment and many other legal issues.

Although this law applies to all states, most sexual harassment lawyers will focus on state laws first. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission oversees the enforcement of this law, which applies to all federal employees or businesses with more than 15 employees.

Trust Your Case to Holman Schiavone, LLC

Since the process of filing sexual harassment claims is challenging, you won’t want to take on your employer without a harassment lawyer. The complaint process can be daunting, but we’re here to guide you through it. Determining when to approach HR and when to seek external assistance is key to resolving the issue. One wrong move could jeopardize your chance at justice, so it’s important to have trustworthy legal counsel by your side to help you navigate this process.

If an internal complaint does not lead to resolution, we can help you take the next step by filing a formal charge with the state or federal government, specifically with a government agency such as the MCHR or the EEOC, or with the Kansas City Human Relations Department if the harassment occurred in Kansas City.

You don’t have to suffer through sexual harassment or a sexually hostile work environment any longer. To schedule a free initial consultation with skilled and compassionate harassment lawyers, contact Holman Schiavone, LLC, at 816-320-6108 or email our team.