The Basics of a Sexual Harassment at Work Lawsuit

Sexual harassment at work lawsuit

Being the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace can put an individual in a very uncomfortable position. You simply want to go to work and do your job without being subjected to physical or verbal harassment and when you depend on your paycheck, as most people do, you might fear losing your job by speaking up. Furthermore, sexual harassment can often take a form that leaves the victim wondering if the behavior rises to the level of sexual harassment. Also, sexual harassment is not something that affects women only.

You are protected against sexual harassment in the workplace under federal law and some state laws. In certain circumstances, you may be able to bring a claim against both the individual who harassed you and your employer.

What does sexual harassment in the workplace look like?

The most common scenario that people imagine when they think of sexual harassment in the workplace is a male superior making comments of a sexual nature or sexual advances toward a female subordinate. However, sexual harassment can also involve a female harassing a male, a female harassing another female, or a male harassing another male. It can even be indirect in the case of employees making sexual comments generally about one gender, if it makes an individual of that same gender feel uncomfortable and harassed.

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Types of Sexual Harassment Cases

There are two different types of sexual harassment cases: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo harassment happens when submission to or rejection of harassing conduct becomes the basis for employment decisions. If the harassment is coming from a supervisor and the submission to or rejection of conduct resulted in some tangible employment decision, such as the victim being promoted, passed over for a promotion, fired, or being reassigned to another position, then the employer will automatically be held vicariously liable for the harassment of that supervisor.

A sexual harassment case based on a hostile work environment does not need to involve a tangible employment action, but must demonstrate that sex-based discrimination unreasonably interfered with the victim's work performance or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment to work in.

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Protection Under Federal Law

If you experience unwelcomed sexual advances or other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace, you may be able to bring a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if: (1) there is an explicit or implicit requirement that you submit to the advances as a condition of your employment; (2) submitting or rejecting the advances affects your employment in some way; or (3) the conduct unreasonably interferes with your work performance or creates a hostile or offensive workplace for you.

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Protection Under State Law

Employees are also protected against sexual harassment in the workplace under the laws of many states. New York and California have particularly strong laws prohibiting sexual discrimination and harassment. New York's Human Rights Law prohibits sex discrimination and applies to workplaces in New York with any number of employees. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act protects sex-based harassment on the basis of gender, pregnancy, or childbirth.

How do you file a sexual harassment case?

To take legal action for sexual harassment in your workplace, you must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days of the conduct. You can either file a complaint online or in person at an EEOC office. It is also important to consult an employment lawyer right away to review your case and advise you on the steps you should take, including your available remedies under state law. Contact the experienced employment lawyers at our firm right away to discuss your case.

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