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What Are Harassment Lawsuits?
The term “harassment lawsuit” usually refers to a lawsuit involving unwanted or inappropriate or hostile behavior in the workplace. This can take various forms, and often involves conduct of a sexual nature. Harassment is generally classified under two types:
- Hostile Work Environment: This is where an employer, supervisor, or co-worker creates an offensive environment through the constant use of inappropriate jokes, behavior, or sexual advances
- Quid Pro Quo: This is where the employer or supervisor promises something in exchange for a sexual favor, such as an advancement or promotion (“this-for-that” harassment)
Of these types of harassment claims, the first often goes unreported for various reasons, such as a fear of losing one’s job, or a lack of knowledge of how to report such misconduct. In any case, these two types of harassment can result in much hardship for the victim, such as an inability to concentrate, or a reduction in work performance.
Harassment can also refer to criminal conduct outside the workplace, such as when a person is being stalked or when a consumer constantly receives unwanted phone calls. However, harassment lawsuits typically refer to conduct inside the workplace.
What Are the Legal Remedies Involved in a Harassment Lawsuit?
The legal remedies involved in a harassment lawsuit can involve:
- A monetary damages award to reimburse the worker for their economic losses (such as lost wages or lost promotions due to interference with work productivity)
- Other types of damages, such as emotional suffering; these are more likely to be awarded in cases where the emotional injury also involved physical symptoms
- Administrative corrective measures, such as terminating the employee or employer liable for the harassment
- Company-wide changes, such as correcting slack company policies, re-writing employee handbooks, enforcing mandatory awareness sessions, and changing HR reporting procedures
In some cases, multiple persons can be found liable for workplace harassment. For instance, if more than one person engaged in inappropriate behavior, they can become jointly liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
What Is a Frivolous Harassment Lawsuit?
Persons filing harassment lawsuits need to be careful that they aren’t filing a frivolous harassment lawsuit. A frivolous lawsuit is one that likely won’t succeed in court because it has little or no legal basis for the claim. Similarly, a false sexual harassment claim is one that is filed with the plaintiff knowing that the other party wasn’t guilty. This can be a waste of very costly state and local resources. Some characteristics of frivolous harassment lawsuits include:
- The claim is based on far-fetched, unlikely, exaggerated, unrealistic claims that have no foundation
- The lawsuit was filed simply to intimidate or harass the other party
- The claim is requesting inappropriate monetary amounts for damages
Most courts don’t look very favorably upon frivolous lawsuits. In fact, a party that knowingly files a frivolous harassment lawsuit may actually suffer legal consequences themselves, such as a contempt order or court fines.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I File a Harassment Lawsuit?
Harassment lawsuits can often be complicated to deal with, and generally require the assistance of an employment lawyer. You may wish to hire a qualified employment attorney in your area if you feel that you have a valid claim for harassment.
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Last Modified: 04-23-2015 10:13 AM PDT
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