How to Protect your Rights if you are Sexually Harassed at Work
November 13, 2013
Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and against the law. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination on the basis of gender, which Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits. Though the law does not protect employees from mere teasing or isolated incidents, if the harassment causes an offensive or hostile work environment, the victim likely has a case. Furthermore, the victim would also have a good case if the harassment resulted in an adverse employment action, such as turning the victim down for a promotion or terminating the victim. Whenever you believe you may be experiencing harassment at work, it is always a good idea to contact an employment attorney to discuss a possible case.
Additionally, if you believe you have been sexually harassed, there are a few basic steps you should take in order to preserve your rights. These include:
Do not simply quit. Even though you may be embarrassed or uncomfortable returning to work, you should not quit unless you believe your safety is in jeopardy. You must instead look up the company’s policy on sexual harassment and follow the steps set out in that policy for victims of harassment. If you quit, it is unlikely you would have adequately followed the company policy and you may lose your right to sue.
Talk to the harasser. One requirement for sexual harassment is that the actions must have been unwanted. Therefore, you must make it clear that you are not willing to participate in the sexual behavior and that you did not like it. Many offenders try to claim that victims “laughed off” their comments, so make it clear that you would like the behavior to stop. Again, only do this if you feel safe.
Report the behavior. If nothing changes after you talk to the offender, as mentioned, you must find your company’s policy on harassment and report the offending behavior through all the appropriate channels. Making an internal complaint lets the company know there is a problem and gives them a chance to remedy the situation. If the company does nothing in response to your complaints, you will have a stronger case for greater damages in court.
File a charge. Before you can sue, you must file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After investigating or reviewing your charge, the agency will issue you a right to sue letter if they believe you have a case. If you skip this step in the process, any lawsuit your file in court will almost certainly be dismissed.
Make sure you have an experienced employment attorney. Following company and administrative agency policies for reporting sexual harassment may be confusing, complicated, or simply frustrating. It is always helpful to have a knowledgeable employment attorney guiding you through the process to ensure all of your rights are preserved and that you have a strong case in court. If you believe you have been harassed, contact Pershing Square Law Firm as soon as possible.