Everyone has the right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment. If your employer has penalized you, made benefits of your job conditioned on acceptance of sexual advances, or created a hostile work environment, you may be entitled to damages.
A hostile work environment is one where you are subjected to unwanted harassing conduct so severe, widespread or persistent that a reasonable person would consider it hostile or abusive. Harassing conduct takes many oppressive forms, including verbal (obscene language, demeaning comments, slurs, threats), physical (unwanted touching, assault, interference with normal work or movement), visual (offensive posters, objects, cartoons, drawings) or simply unwanted sexual advances.
Harassing conduct need not be sexual in nature, or motivated by sexual desire, to be unlawful. However, to be illegal, the conduct must be because of sex, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation or another protected category. Employers may be liable for failing to prevent and correct harassment, whether it is committed by a supervisor, co-worker or third party.
Andrus Anderson protects the rights of workers who are victims of harassment based on sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. We provide a free legal consultation and representation to workers who have been subjected to unlawful workplace harassment.
What You Can Do if You Have Been Sexually Harassed
Ignoring sexual harassment usually will not make it go away. Here are some basic steps you can take if you are faced with sexual harassment or discrimination at work:
- Record dates, places, people, times and witnesses of the harassment/discrimination. (Note: This must not be done on company time or company equipment and should be kept at home.)
- Review company policies about discrimination, grievance procedures or arbitration agreements.
- Put employer “on notice” by informing your superior(s) or human resources about what’s happening.
- Maintain copies of positive job evaluations or letters.
- Talk to sympathetic co-workers: you may find others who are encountering the same problems, and if you complain together, the complaints may be taken more seriously.
Some companies take active steps to keep their employees from taking them to court, typically through arbitration agreement. As part of an arbitration agreement, you may be forced to take part in a secret arbitration where a judge, generally paid by your employer, will determine the outcome of your case – instead of having the opportunity to have your case heard in a more traditional court setting. In some states and specific situations, an arbitration agreement may not be enforceable, but there is no way to know for sure unless an attorney reviews the arbitration agreement. Generally, most employees require that you sign an arbitration agreement at the beginning of your employment, sometimes as part of your employment agreement. If not, the arbitration agreement may have been included in the employee handbook. If you think you may have signed an arbitration agreement with your employer at some point, it is crucial that the attorneys at Andrus Anderson review the agreement as soon as possible to best analyze the agreement’s possible impact on your potential case.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, you do not have to endure a hostile work environment any longer. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, as the passage of time can eliminate your right to sue. To report an abuse or obtain more information about your rights and remedies, please click here.