Sexual harassment claims can be very serious, especially if they occur in a work setting. However, having enough evidence is essential for proving any sexual harassment claim. Without the proper evidence documenting the harassment and resulting damages, you may have difficulties proving your case.
For this reason, it’s important to compile any documents and communications that might support your sexual harassment claim.
- What are the Elements of a Sexual Harassment Claim?
- How Can I Prove a Sexual Harassment Claim Against a Supervisor?
- How Can I Prove a Sexual Harassment Claim Against a Co-Worker or Other Individual?
- What Evidence do I Need in a Sexual Harassment Case?
- How Can I File a Work Sexual Harassment Claim?
- Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer If I Have a Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim?
Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, and same-sex harassment is also prohibited. Typically, there are two types of sexual harassment claims in the context of an employment setting:
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment: This is when a supervisor or other employee demands sexual favors as a condition of your employment; and
- Hostile Work Environment:This occurs when the workplace is sexually intimidating and offensive.
While many sexual harassment lawsuits are filed through the federal court system, you may also have a claim under state laws as well. A sexual harassment lawyer in your state or area can help you understand your rights and legal options.
In order to prove a sexual harassment claim, you must meet certain legal requirements and provide the supporting evidence. These requirements may vary, depending on state laws, and also whether you were harassed by a supervisor, co-worker, or other individual.
If a supervisor or other similar figure (such as the owner of the company) harasses you, your employer can often be held liable. This is especially true if the harassment results in an adverse employment action (such as termination, demotion, or decreased earnings).
When an adverse employment action occurs, you must provide the necessary evidence documenting your supervisor’s harassment and its relationship to your termination, demotion, or pay cut.
If you do not directly experience an adverse employment action, but your supervisor’s behavior does end up creating a hostile work environment, then you may still be entitled to damages. In these cases, you must show a pattern of sexually offensive and/or intimidating behavior.
However, your employer can defend themselves if:
- You unreasonably failed to report the sexual harassment, and
- There were specific work policies and procedures in place that would have effectively stopped the harassing behavior.
To challenge this defense, you can in turn present evidence that you reasonably believed that your complaint would be ignored. You can also show that your supervisor would retaliate if you filed a claim.
In other cases, a co-worker, contractor, customer, or other individual creates a hostile work environment or demands inappropriate sexual favors. In these types of situations, your employer may be liable for damages if:
- The company or its management knew (or reasonably should have known) of the harassment; and
- They failed to take appropriate measures to stop the harassment despite their knowledge of it.
In employment sexual harassment claims involving a co-worker, your evidence must include documentation of the offensive behavior and your employer’s failure to protect you.
In order to succeed on your claim, you must have evidence documenting the harassment and your damages. This may include:
- Communications from the harasser, including emails, voicemails, text messages, and others;
- Your complaints and the company’s responses (or lack of a response);
- Your personnel or employment file;
- Your employee policy handbook and your employer’s written sexual harassment policies (if any);
- Testimony from witnesses;
- Any photos or videos of incidents; and
- Bills and other proof of harassment-related expenses.
Typically, you can request copies of your personnel file directly from your employer’s HR department. Be mindful that you may have to pay a copying fee for these records.) However, other company documents may be difficult to obtain without the help of a lawyer or investigating government agency. You may need to onsider hiring an experienced sexual harassment lawyer if you need assistance building your case.
When filing a claim, victims of sexual harassment must follow a specific complaint process. If your employer harasses your or does not protect you from harassment, you typically must file a charge (or complaint) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
This must be done first before you are allowed to file a private lawsuit. The EEOC will then investigate your case and may file a lawsuit on your behalf. If the EEOC does not pursue your claim, or if the investigation does not provide any help, you will receive a Right to Sue letter.
Once you have a Right to Sue letter from the EEOC, you may file a federal lawsuit against your employer. (Different rules may apply in state claims.) All filing should be done in a timely manner, as you also must meet strict filing deadlines in sexual harassment claims. FIling deadlines can vary from state to state.
If you need help understanding the claim process and your rights regarding sexual harassment, contact a harassment lawyer with experience in sexual harassment claims,or the EEOC. An experienced lawyer in your area can help you collect evidence, file the correct paperwork, and help you receive fair compensation.