Filing A Sexual Harassment Claim
Sexual harassment is illegal. This type of sex discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But there are many things to consider carefully before filing your sexual harassment claim. By being thorough before reporting, the reporting process will go much more smoothly for you.
Sexual harassment of any kind makes you feel violated and powerless. Many people are told they need to be quiet and tolerate their harassment, or that there is nothing anyone can do to help them. The truth is that you have rights under the law and many possible avenues to resolve your problem. These avenues range from informal actions at work through the human resource department, to filing a lawsuit.
Consider Your Situation
Before filing a formal claim with your company’s human resource department, consider these questions:
- Does your situation meet the standards of sexual harassment, as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?
- Has there been more than one occurrence or incident of this harassment?
- Do you feel your harassment has been extreme and offensive enough to justify leaving your job if the responsible party or parties do not stop?
- To make the behavior stop, are you willing to risk your job?
- Can you handle any retaliation or missed opportunities that – while illegal – may occur from other employees or supervision if you report?
- Are there other people experiencing the same problems, or those who witnessed yours, who would be willing to support your claim or join with you?
- Do you know of any past claims against the company?
The more of these questions you answer “yes” to, the stronger your chances of getting through your claim with the outcome you need.
Speak Up about Your Sexual Harassment
For many sex harassment cases, particularly in hostile workplaces, the people responsible for the harassment have no idea they offend others. Your first step in fixing your problem is to let the offensively behaving person know that you have been offended. This may resolve your problem, altogether. But if it does not end the sexual harassment, you have done what you could to quietly resolve it.
Follow the Reporting Steps in Your Employment Manual
Most companies provide new employees an employment manual upon hiring. This details the company’s procedure for filing sexual harassment claims. If you do not have a manual or cannot find information about filing a sexual harassment claim, talk to your immediate supervisor. If your supervisor is the one committing the offenses, as is often the case, take your complaint to that person’s immediate supervisor. Or, talk to your human resources manager.
Remember that you need good records of the harassment events, your complaints and related incidents. Be as specific as possible. Try to include dates, people involved, time and what the involved person or people said.
File an Administrative Charge
If talking to your supervisor or company designee did not help resolve your matter, you can file an administrative charge with the government. This usually means filing through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Other options are your state human rights or civil rights agency. The agency investigates your claim and works to negotiate for you with your employer. Otherwise, the agency may issue a right to sue letter, advising you of your right to take your case to court.
If you gain a right to sue letter from the government agency, consider filing a civil lawsuit for your sexual harassment-related injuries. These do not need to be physical injuries. They are more often emotional ones you suffer as a victim.
Potential outcomes for a lawsuit include:
- Getting your job back, if you lost it
- Being paid back pay multiplied three times
- Gaining lost fringe benefits
- Receiving emotional distress damages
- Requiring your employer to enact policies and training
- Compensating you for attorney’s fees and court costs
If you have suffered sexual harassment and need advice and guidance on your next steps, call a skilled lawyer who can assist with your case.