If you're experiencing sexual harassment, you're not alone. In 2020, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported 11,497 charges alleging sex-based harassment. These charges included only those filed with the EEOC and do not include state or local fair employment action agencies, like the Utah Labor Commission. When it comes to deciding what actions to take, fear and uncertainty often play a large part in sexual harassment remaining unaddressed. In this article, we'll discuss when it's time to talk to a sexual harassment lawyer, what steps you should take, and how to protect yourself.
If you're being harassed, know that the Andrus Law Firm team is here to help you. You're not in this alone – we'll fight to protect your rights from day one. Give us a call at 801-535-4645, and our trusted legal team will review the facts of your case, and recommend next steps to you.
Where Does Sexual Harassment Happen?
Sexual harassment can happen in any place. Common places where sexual harassment occurs are the workplace, universities and schools, religious organizations, other public spaces, or online. No matter where harassment has occurred, you may be protected by federal and state legislation. A sexual harassment attorney will be able to answer specific questions regarding what the law says about sexual harassment inside and outside of the workplace.
What Is Considered Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment may include any unwanted sexual advances, sexual comments or suggestions, unwanted physical touching, or other unwanted verbal or physical behavior that creates a hostile environment. Some specific behaviors that qualify as sexual harassment include:
- Unwanted kissing or forced physical touching
- Repeated compliments on appearance, etc
- Lewd jokes or statements
- Conversation about sexual affairs
- Interrogation about one's sex life
- Sexually suggestive correspondence, such as emails or texts
- Continuous unwanted touching, such as hugs or shoulder touches
- Sexist comments and actions
- Sexual assault or abuse
It may be legally considered harassment if someone's conduct makes you feel uncomfortable and would be offensive to any “reasonable person” in the same situation. In this case, you may be protected by federal and state laws. Typically, sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination. As such, it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also may violate The Utah Antidiscrimination Act, which outlaws discrimination in employment against any qualified persons based on sex, pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy-related conditions, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Utah Code § 34A-5-106.
Consult a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Before You Report It
The first step in protecting yourself when reporting harassment in the workplace is consulting an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. Your lawyer can help you answer any questions you have before you talk to your employer. Some questions may include:
- How does the law define sexual harassment?
- What is the appropriate way to respond to the person who is harassing you?
- Should you report sexual harassment? If so, to whom should you report it?
- How can you protect yourself when reporting harassment at work?
- What do you do if your employer retaliates against you after reporting harassment?
- Should you report it to external agencies, too?
- Should you file a lawsuit against your employer?
Your lawyer will be able to help answer any questions you have about your potential harassment case. He or she can also help you outline your experience, so you can calmly articulate it to the appropriate department, which will initiate your harassment claim.
Additional Steps to Protect Yourself
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself amid sexual harassment investigations. Having an attorney on your side will help protect you from any retaliation from your employer. Additionally, you should do the following:
- Keep detailed documentation of the harassment and conversations about it
- Prepare to handle any subsequent harassment
- Monitor your employer's reactions to your report to stop potential retaliation
- Consider filing charges with external agencies
You're Legally Protected Against Retaliation
The thoughts of retaliation can be frightening and often delay harassment or discrimination reports. It's important to know that after submitting a sexual harassment claim, you are protected from employer retaliation by the law. Additionally, you are protected from employer retaliation in the case that you participate in another employee's sexual harassment or employee discrimination investigation. Retaliation may refer to any negative actions taken by an employer, manager, or supervisor as a response to a discrimination or harassment complaint. These actions include termination, promotion denials, threats, punishment, negative evaluations, removal or alteration of work benefits, etc. You are not only protected from employer retaliation regarding sexual harassment complaints. Employees are also protected by anti-retaliation laws when they file complaints about gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, racial discrimination, disability discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, or any other forms of discrimination based on race, nationality, or color.
When to Consider Filing Charges
After reporting the harassment to your employer, your harassment lawyer will outline your additional legal options, including which external agencies you may file charges with (such as the EEOC or the Utah Labor Commission). You can also report any retaliation claims, which are sometimes easier to prove than the original harassment claim.
If filing charges with these agencies provide no appropriate and fair results, you may want to consider filing a civil lawsuit against your employer with your harassment lawyer.
Legal Remedies Available in a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
Any legal compensation you may receive will depend on the facts of your harassment case. Some damages that may be available to you are:
- Economic Damages - These damages are monetary and include things like lost wages and other compensation, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses, etc
- Non-Economic Damages - These damages include pain and suffering, emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. These damages are more difficult to calculate monetarily, but a sexual harassment lawyer can help you do so.
- Attorney Fees - By statute, a prevailing plaintiff may recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.
- Punitive Damages - While these are less common and may be capped, punitive damages allow a jury to award compensation to a plaintiff to “punish” the defendant for his or her actions.
Consult with an Experienced Harassment Lawyer Today
If you've been sexually harassed or discriminated against in the workplace or another place, consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Speaking with an attorney before you report the incident(s) to your employer could help to protect yourself during the investigation process. To review the facts of your case with our experienced and trusted harassment lawyer, give us a call at 801-535-4645, or fill out our confidential online form here.