Sexual Harassment: Can I Sue My Employer?
Regardless if you are male or female, you have every right to contact a sexual harassment attorney if co-workers or owners of your company physically or verbally offended you in a sexually inappropriate way. But it’s a tricky area of law, one that requires close examination of key details.
First, it’s important to understand that federal law – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, administered through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – is widely understood to mean that women and men are to be given equal job opportunities. This includes the right to work in a non-hostile workplace that is free of sexual harassment. The law defines what we know as sexual discrimination as any unwelcome comments or behavior that causes one of the following to happen:
- The employee’s position with the company or institution is affected, explicitly or implicitly, as a result of the assault or harassment (e.g., the victim is not promoted, is given lesser assignments or is denied pay increases).
- The assault interferes with work performance, such as having to avoid work-related social situations because of embarrassment or fear, or simply when the trauma makes it difficult to function effectively in his or her job.
- In general, the situation creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment in that particular workplace. Examples: Fostered or tolerated jokes, emails, sexually demeaning posters or verbal taunts that are offensive to individuals or classes (i.e., members of demographic groups, which can be either gender or persons oriented to same-sex attraction).
A personal injury attorney who focuses on sex harassment litigation can bring a lawsuit against an individual when there is a clear sense of “quid pro quo.” This is when the harassment or assault involved the perpetrator expecting sexual favors in exchange for either a promotion or denial of a job benefit. While pursuit of such a case might boil down to a “he said, she said” scenario, you can still prevail.
A somewhat more difficult to define offense is where the company or a supervisor is guilty of creating the intimidating, offensive or hostile environment. It might be explicit, such as when a public event (e.g., at a office holiday party) involves sexual taunting of an individual or class. More often, it is subtle, such as a continued tolerance of demeaning humor by one or several individuals. The fact that individuals are not reprimanded for inappropriate comments or behaviors such as sexual touching implies that the behavior is OK by company standards.
This is where the employer then becomes responsible for the offense – and therefore can be sued for sexual harassment. If you contact a sexual harassment attorney, you should have records or recall that helps prove your employer is liable for allowing a hostile environment. These records should demonstrate that one or several of the following conditions is present:
- That the harassment was committed by a high-level official in the organization, such as the CEO, a corporate officer or the owner of the company; if the harassment was committed by a lower-level employee, that it was clearly known to a senior executive or direct supervisor.
- That the harassment resulted in a “tangible employment action” (demotion, termination, denial of a raise, undesirable job reassignment).
- That the employer failed to provide a means of redress for the victimized employee.
- That the employer fails to act on a complaint or situation where harassment is something they “knew or should have known.”
These are standards established by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998 (Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Burlington Industries v. Ellerth); therefore no company can evade liability on the basis of the rules being new.
If your situation meets any of these criteria, it’s well worth a discussion with a sexual harassment attorney. A personal injury attorney with experience in the area of sex harassment can help sort through the grey areas to determine if your case would be successful going forward.
Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Attorney Contact Form
You can contact Los Angeles sex harassment attorney David Drexler by email, by calling 1-877-99-LA-LAW (1-877-995-2529) or by filling out the form below.
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R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.