Sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination consisting of unwanted sexual advances, sexual conduct, or other verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature, usually at the workplace.  Sexual harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature and can be anything like offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

How Do you File a Sexual Harassment Complaint?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under state and federal laws. The typical procedure for filing a sexual harassment claim is as follows:

  1. Write it Down: Make sure to write down the details of the incident, possible witnesses, and gather any physical evidence that could help your claim.
  2. Review your company policies: Your employer should have mechanisms in place that allow you to make a complaint through the human resources department of your company. 
  3. Report to Supervisor: If harassment continues, you must report 
    to your supervisor. If the harasser is your supervisor, report to someone higher or to the HR department. If the harasser is the highest-ranking individual in the workplace, report to the HR department or any other management personnel.
  4. File Complaint with EEOC: The first complaint you need to file is with the EEOC. The agency will investigate your claim and may take action with your employer to provide for your remedy
  5. File a Civil Complaint: If the EEOC does not resolve the issue, you may have to file a lawsuit in civil court. This will require you to provide evidence in support of your claim, such as written statements or witness testimony.

You should be prepared to take several steps in connection with your sexual harassment claim. Most state laws require you to “exhaust the possible remedies” before you can file a lawsuit. In particular, filing with a government agency such as EEOC is usually required before you can file a civil lawsuit. 

What Are the Different Kinds Sexual Harassment Complaints?

The different types of sexual harassment claims: 

  • Hostile Work Environment: This is where there is an overall environment that is offensive towards a person or a particular sex. This may involve one worker making remarks, or a group of people creating an inappropriate atmosphere. This is a common form of sexual harassment
  • “Quid Pro Quo” Sexual Harassment: This occurs where another worker, usually a supervisor, requests sexual favors in exchange for benefits like a pay raise or promotions. 

Understanding the different forms that sexual harassment can take will help you when filing your claim. Some employees may actually be able to file a legal claim, but end up not doing so because they don’t understand the definition of sexual harassment. 

What If I Was Fired or Penalized for Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim?

Firing or penalizing an employee because they have filed a harassment claim is also illegal. This known as “retaliatory discharge” or “employee retaliation,” and is prohibited by state and federal laws. Retaliation is any action taken by an employee or a company against an employee because he or she filed a sexual harassment complaint.

If you were fired or penalized in retaliation for filing a claim against your employer, in addition to the sexual harassment complaint, you may also have a claim for retaliation. If you are able to prove that your employer retaliated against you because of your complaint, you may obtain remedies such as being reinstated to your former job position, and obtaining back wages for the pay that you lost. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Sexual Harassment Issues?

Filing a sexual harassment claim can often be intimidating and sometimes challenging. If you feel that you’ve been subject to sexual harassment, you may need to hire an employment lawyer for assistance with the process.  An experienced employment lawyer can guide you on how to file a sexual harassment claim.