Your Rights Against Sexual Harassment at Work

The most common form of sexual harassment is called ‘Quid Pro Quo’. This is when an employee is offered benefits, such as a better position, or material gains when agreeing to unwelcome sexual advancements.

These cases aren’t easy to prove, as the employee has to provide adequate proof that the harasser caused harm through inappropriate sexual advances.

You will know whether you have been sexually harassed or not, but you must define the sort of sexual harassment. Some acts of harassment are obvious, while others are not. They may include any of the following:

  • showing offensive sexual images;
  • making offensive comments/jokes in your presence;
  • openly asking for sexual favors;
  • unwelcomed groping and touching;
  • teasing  you about your appearance in a sexual sense and in front of others;
  • sending offensive sexual messages via voice mail, text messaging, emailing and in a written letter.

One of the key points about any form of sexual harassment is that the employee as the victim must agree that the harassment was unwelcome.

Often, the employer finds it hard to accept a complaint that has been lodged particularly if you have a known relationship with the perpetrator either as a supervisor, co-worker or a friend.

Seek Outside Help

It is illegal for an employer who has a workforce of more than 15 employees to allow sexual harassment to take place in the work place.

If you haven’t been able to reach an agreement with your employer about the sexual harassment after filing your complaint on the employer’s complaint form, your next option is to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

The first step they take is to arrange mediation between you and your employer as this is the easiest way to resolve a dispute in relation to sexual harassment.

The mediator allocated to the mediation meeting typically assists the parties to reach a solution. It can take about 3 months to go through the mediation process.

If neither the employee nor the employer can reach an agreement, the charge filed by the employee goes to an investigator. The investigator from the EEOC will look at all aspects of the sexual harassment charge and will decide if there is enough evidence to file a lawsuit against the employer because s/he knowingly allowed sexual harassment to take place in the workplace when it is prohibited.

Your Rights to Compensation for Sexual harassment

If the EEOC helps to file a lawsuit against your employer you could get compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages, sometimes called pain and suffering, is the compensation you will receive due to the emotional distress you have had to put up with as a result of unwanted sexual harassment.

It also includes any harm done to your reputation and any out-of-pocket expenses due to the harassment, like medical treatment bills for stress.

If you feel you need to change your employer, you may be able to get a cash amount to cover the costs of seeking another job.

If your employer refused to admit sexual harassment took place and s/he is deliberately concealing the truth you may be entitled to punitive damages which is a way of penalizing your employer for undermining sexual harassment law.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

If you think you have been sexually harassed by your supervisor, you should contact an attorney as s/he understands the claim process.

The attorney may first discuss your claim of sexual harassment by your supervisor with your employer as long as you have sufficient evidence that proves unwelcome sexual harassment took place. If the employee agrees to monitor and end the sexual harassment, then the claim is solved.

If your employer refuses to admit that sexual harassment against you has taken place in the workplace and believes it was either welcomed by you or it never happened at all, your attorney will help you to file a charge with the EEOC.

Your attorney will attend mediation organized by the EEOC and will try to negotiate an agreement on your behalf.

If this fails you will have completed the compulsory step towards filing a lawsuit and that is going through mediation first. Now your employment lawyer can help to compile a case in your favor when you file a lawsuit.

Additional Resources