Sexual harassment in the workplace is a type of unlawful discrimination. Succinctly, federal law defines sexual harassment as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive, and affects one’s ability to perform work functions, or creates a hostile work environment.
If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed at your place of employment, it is important to speak to an attorney early on to determine the best course of action under the circumstances. Below, we’ve articulated certain criteria that legally identify a behavior, or pattern of behaviors, as sexual harassment:
- Unwelcome. In order to make a sexual harassment claim, the behavior directed toward you must be unwelcome. Therefore, you should communicate to the harasser that you think their conduct is inappropriate, and you want them to stop. An attorney can help to determine the best way to deliver this communication under your circumstances.
- Severe or pervasive. A single, isolated, sexual or offensive comment is generally not severe enough to amount to sexual harassment. For a single incident to be considered sexual harassment, it must be “severe” in nature. Serious misconduct such as rape would count as sexual harassment, and may also violate other laws and constitute criminal behavior. Behavior that is less severe may still constitute sexual harassment if that behavior is pervasive, meaning the harassment persists and happens frequently. Sexual harassment does not need to be both severe and pervasive.
- Hostile work environment. If your employer or colleague behaves in a way that unreasonably interferes with your ability to work, or creates a hostile, intimidating, offensive work environment, you may have a case for sexual harassment.
If, as a result of sexual harassment, you are denied a promotion, given a poor evaluation, demoted, or reassigned to a position because you rejected a sexual advance, then the sexual harassment has affected your working conditions and you now have grounds for legal action.
So how do I file a sexual harassment lawsuit?
If you understand all the criteria that constitute sexual harassment and you’re confident you have a case, the following are steps that should be taken prior to filing a sexual harassment lawsuit.
- Tell your harasser to stop. Make it perfectly clear that this person’s actions and behavior offends you.
- Report the harassment. If possible, tell your supervisor, your human resources director, or anyone else within the company who has the power to stop the harassment. It’s usually best to communicate through email so there will be a written, dated record of your complaint. Describe what happened in detail, and note any possible witnesses.
- File a discrimination complaint. Before filing a lawsuit with a federal or state court, it is necessary to report a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You should get help from a lawyer in doing so. Many states (including Kansas and Missouri) have separate agencies for investigating employment claims.
- File a lawsuit. If you’ve already filed a formal complaint with the EEOC or your state’s fair employment agency, you can contact a local lawyer to review your case and file a lawsuit if one is warranted.
For additional resources and more information on the process of filing a sexual harassment claim or lawsuit, visit Equal Rights Advocates.
If you’re considering filing a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit against an employer or colleague, our sexual harassment attorneys can help. Contact Meyers Law Firm online or call us in the Kansas City area at (816) 994-3240. Our team is comprised of experienced attorneys who focus on employment law, consumer law, and personal injury cases. If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s neglect or treated unfairly by an employer, our attorneys can help.