Sexual harassment is sometimes blatant. Even in the 21st century, too many employees are subjected to offensive remarks, crude jokes, unwanted touching, and sexual advances in the workplace.
Sexual harassment can also be very subtle and confusing. Did that guy brush against you on purpose? Or was it an accident? Are you being overly sensitive? Or was that comment meant to upset you? It often takes time to realize that a series of small incidents are adding up and creating a hostile work environment.
Fortunately, the law is on your side and getting better. Thanks to the “me too” movement, laws have been changed to make it easier to prove sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Judges and juries are more likely to believe women and men who claim that they were sexually harassed. They are also more likely to award compensatory and punitive damages.
In a perfect world, we would not need these laws. People would treat each other with respect. Everyone would value each other for their contributions. Job performance would be judged solely on the quality of your work, without regard to your sex, race, religion, national origin, age, or disability.
The reality is that we do not live in a perfect world. Many people make decisions based on conscious and subconscious biases and prejudices. Some people use their positions at work to satisfy their base desires. Others have a perverse need to prove their own worth by denigrating their co-workers. Some employers take advantage of their employees, while others turn a blind eye to conduct that is unacceptable.
When this happens – when you subjected harassment or a hostile work environment because of who you are – the law gives you the tools to fight back.
You have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. You also have the right to be free from a hostile work environment based on your sex, age, race, religion, national origin, gender, or gender identity.
Whether the harasser is a supervisor, a co-worker, or even a customer, your employer must take steps to protect you and provide a safe working environment. An employer that fails to protect you from illegal harassment in the workplace can be forced to pay compensatory and punitive damages.
You also have the right to be free from retaliation for reporting or opposing a hostile work environment. Once you file a complaint with your employer or a government agency, an adverse employment action by your employer may be considered an act of retaliation. Retaliation can also result in an award of compensatory and punitive damages.
If you have faced sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, call us to discuss your rights. You may be entitled to protection from the harassment and a substantial damages award. The initial consultation is free of charge. And if you have a strong case, we will represent you on a contingency fee basis -- which means that you will not pay us any attorneys' fees unless you win.