Every work environment is different. Some are very strict where employees are expected to only work, while others may be more lighthearted and full of jokes. This is especially true for companies with the “work hard and play hard” mentality, where sexual innuendos may be the daily norm.

Although poor behavior can be easily spotted in strict work environments, many people working in lighthearted environments may fear retaliation in their careers if they report the sexual harassment. This article will clarify what exactly counts as sexual harassment and when a person should consult an attorney for help.

What Kind of Advice Can I Get From a Lawyer?

Before you decide to take any action by reporting your sexual harassment case to human resources, you may want to ask a lawyer questions to decide whether you want to pursue the matter. Furthermore, a lawyer is needed if you want to escalate the matter and sue the defendant in court.
 
Some of the top questions to clarify with a lawyer include:

  • Is it legally defined as sexual harassment (i.e. a valid legal claim)?
  • How should I interact with the harasser going forward?
  • Should I report the harassment?
  • How can I protect myself from future harassment?
  • What should I do if my employer retaliates after I report the harassment?

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Legally, sexual harassment is defined by the EEOC as “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: 1) Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment. 2) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals. 3) Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

Essentially, sexual harassment is any unwelcomed sexual advances, requests, or verbal or physical conduct that leads to a hostile or offensive work environment. However, not every offensive act will be legally defined as sexual harassment. If you are uncertain whether the conduct constitutes as sexual harassment, please consult an attorney to determine whether it is harassment and what measures you can take to protect yourself.  

Why Is It Important to See an Attorney?

Depending on your employer’s sexual harassment policy or even your state law, you may need to report the conduct to human resources before you can take further legal actions. An employment lawyer can help you organize what you need to say to your human resources department so that you establish the legal grounds for any potential legal claims. Moreover, the lawyer can advice you about how to document the harassment, how to deal with the harasser if conduct continues, and how to monitor your employer’s action to screen against retaliation. Though some of this may sound trivial, it is not always possible to think clearly during the moment of harassment.

Do I Need an Employment Attorney?

An employment lawyer can help you through every step of your potential harassment case from documentation to filing EEOC claims. Additionally, a lawyer can help you weigh the pros and cons of pursuing legal action, and take measures if employment retaliation exists. Finally, it is best to consult an attorney sooner rather than later such that you can preserve every aspect of your case.