Legal Steps to Take if You’ve Experienced Workplace Sexual Harassment

Workplace sexual harassment is a distressing and deeply personal violation that can leave victims feeling powerless and confused. If you find yourself asking, “How can I sue my employer for sexual harassment?” it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are legal steps you can take to hold your harasser and employer accountable. This article aims to guide you through the process of suing your employer for sexual harassment, providing clarity and direction during a challenging time.

What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as including: “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” This misconduct can include unwanted physical contact, inappropriate comments about your body or clothing, graphic or offensive jokes and propositions, and intrusive questions about your sex life.

Sexual harassment is illegal and can not only create a hostile work environment but can also interfere with an individual’s performance and success.

Documenting Your Experience

Documentation is a crucial first step in your journey to sue your employer for sexual harassment. Keeping a detailed record of every instance of harassment can significantly strengthen your case. Here’s how to document effectively:

Maintaining a Detailed Record

  • Time and Date: Note the exact time and date of each incident. This detail can assist in corroborating your account with workplace surveillance, schedules, emails, or other staff testimonies.
  • Location: Document the specific location where each harassing incident occurred. This information can be used to establish patterns of behavior, especially if the harassment consistently happens in isolated or less-monitored areas of the workplace.
  • People Involved: Note down the identity of the harasser and any potential witnesses. Include precise details about their role in each incident. Witnesses can play a vital role in backing up your allegations and providing a less biased account of the events.
  • What Happened: Write a comprehensive description of each incident. Include explicit details of the harassment, your reactions, and the aftermath. Try to recall and write down any exact wording or actions that took place. It’s crucial to be as factual and objective as you can.

Remember, the more meticulous your record-keeping, the stronger your case will be. These records can serve as compelling evidence if you decide to sue your employer or if an investigation by a regulatory body like the EEOC takes place.

Speaking Up

After documenting your experiences, the next step is to report the incident of sexual harassment to your employer. Employers are legally responsible for addressing and preventing sexual harassment in their workplaces. Here’s how to report effectively:

Find a Safe Space to Speak Up

Speak out in an environment that feels safe and comfortable for you. Depending on the size of your workplace, this may be a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor or HR representative, a group discussion with colleagues, or reporting through an anonymous email or online platform. If possible, have someone accompany you for support.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Be as concise and objective as possible in reporting the harassment. Focus on facts rather than feelings, providing clear information about what happened, when, and where. Avoid exaggerating or making assumptions – remain calm and stick to the truth.

Ask for Written Acknowledgement

After you report the harassment, ask that your employer acknowledge your complaint and begin an inquiry. Request a written document outlining the specifics of how they intend to investigate your allegation and protect you from further harm. This is also a good opportunity to discuss any reasonable adjustments or accommodations you need while the investigation takes place (e.g., change in work schedule, reassignment of colleagues, etc.).

Filing a Complaint with the EEOC

If your employer does not take adequate measures to address your complaint or if the harassment continues, the next step is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

How to File a Complaint with the EEOC

Understanding the Requirements

Before filing a complaint, it’s important to understand the EEOC’s requirements. You must file the complaint within 180 days from the day the harassment occurred. This deadline is extended to 300 days if a state or local entity enforces a law that prohibits discrimination on the same basis.

Filing the Complaint

To commence your complaint, contact your local EEOC office. You may be able to file a complaint by mail, in person, or online, depending on your location. In your complaint, provide as much information as possible about the harassment incidents, including details about your employer, the harasser, and any actions your employer took upon receiving your complaint.

What to Expect

After submitting your complaint, an EEOC investigator will review your case. You may be asked to provide additional evidence or attend a mediation session with your employer. If the EEOC determines that harassment has occurred, they may sue your employer on your behalf or provide you with a “right to sue” letter, allowing you to proceed with a lawsuit against your employer.

At some point in your journey to holding your employer accountable for sexual harassment, you will likely need to seek legal counsel. It is crucial to consult an attorney when you decide to file a complaint with the EEOC or consider a lawsuit. An attorney can guide you through the complexities of the legal process, ensure your rights are protected, and help you maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.

While you can certainly speak to a lawyer at any stage in your process, it’s especially beneficial to seek legal counsel:

  1. If you’re unsure about the legalities surrounding your case and need advice on how to proceed.
  2. After you’ve filed a complaint with your employer and they’ve failed to take appropriate action.
  3. Once you decide to file a complaint with the EEOC.
  4. If you receive a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC and wish to pursue a lawsuit.

Bourassa Law Group Has You Covered

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, Bourassa Law Group is here to help. Our lawyers have decades of experience in handling employment law cases and boast a proven track record of successful outcomes for our clients. We understand what’s at stake when it comes to these issues and will work tirelessly to ensure justice is delivered.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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