Pursuing Justice: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
For an employee, sexual harassment in the workplace can make it intolerable to go to work, interact with their coworkers, or manage respectful relationships with their supervisors. For employers, failing to address complaints of a hostile work environment caused by sexual harassment may leave them liable for legal action. This is especially true if a manager, supervisor or another person in a position of power is found to be guilty of sexually harassing employees.
At the Daytona Beach law office of Chanfrau & Chanfrau, we represent both employees and employers in sexual harassment actions in Florida. Contact us to speak with our skilled sexual harassment lawyer: Kelly Chanfrau.
Defining Sexual Harassment
Many people do not have a clear understanding of harassment laws or do not realize what actions are considered to be sexual harassment. Generally, any unwanted sexually charged behavior can be construed as sexual harassment, such as:
- Derogatory jokes or comments, both spoken and written
- Derogatory pictures, jokes or cartoons posted in the workplace, such as in a cubicle or a locker
- Unwanted advances or invitations
- Conditional favors, promotions, or demands in exchange for sexual acts
- Unwanted touching
- Other unwanted or inappropriate sexual behavior
- Wrongful termination for reporting harassment
For Employees: We advocate for the rights of employees who have been subject to a hostile work environment, taken advantage of by an employer, or retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment (including threatened retaliation).
For Employers: Our attorney advises employers facing potential sexual harassment claims so that they can protect the business and create a safer environment for their employees.
What to Do When Facing Sexual Harassment at Work
Facing sexual harassment can be terrifying. Dealing with it in the workplace, where reporting your claims can put your job at risk, adds an additional layer of difficulty. However, there are a few steps you can take:
- Talk to the Harasser: First, tell the person that his or her behavior is unacceptable and firmly refuse any advances or invitations. This can be difficult, especially if they are a supervisor, but it is important to communicate your discomfort if possible. You can do this verbally or in writing.
- Write Down What Happened: Keep a record of incidents, including the date, time, place, witnesses, and a summary of what happened. If there were witnesses, ask them to write down what they saw and heard. It is important to keep a written record of what has happened so that you have a reference handy if you decide to pursue further action.
- Find Out about Company Complaint Procedures: Employers usually have written policies on how they deal with sexual harassment complaints. Ask Human Resources for a copy. Even if you do not end up pursuing action, simply having the information can help you decide how to handle potential future incidents.
- Report the Harassment: Report the harassment to your supervisor or to Human Resources. Put your complaint in writing so that it is documented.
- Keep a Record of Your Actions: As you write about events and submit complaints, keep a record for yourself. Store that record away from work where it cannot be accessed by anyone but you. This will allow you to create a paper trail of what has happened and when.
- File a Discrimination Complaint with the EEOC: To file a formal lawsuit in state or federal court, you must file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Before you file a lawsuit, our team will explain what you can reasonably expect during a trial and how best to prepare aggressive questioning.
How Liability is Proven in a Sexual Harassment Case
The law is very specific about what does and does not constitute sexual harassment. Unfortunately, this places the burden of proof entirely on the victim, which can make pursuing the lawsuit difficult. Before you file, it is important to review your case with a lawyer to determine whether or not the incident was:
- Unwelcome: It is important to make it clear that specific behaviors are unwanted, whether verbally, in writing, or through your actions. If, for example, you engaged in sexual banter with the other employee in the past, some courts may assume that the incident was simply a continuation of this behavior. If the behavior was not welcome in this instance, you must make it known immediately.
- Reported and Documented: It is important to keep copies of complaints, letters, reports, emails, notes, and any other documentation of the harassment. Even if you do not pursue a complaint, it is essential that you keep a written record of the incident or incidents.
- Damaging to Your Career: You may also be asked to provide evidence that the sexual harassment not only created a hostile environment but also impacted your career. Did you lose pay, a promotion, hours, or otherwise suffer damages because of the harassment?
Testifying for any case can be stressful, but sexual harassment lawsuits often amplify that discomfort. Unfortunately, displays of nerves or anxiety while testifying on the witness stand in front of your harasser can be turned against you. Many defense lawyers are aggressive in representing their clients. Before you file a lawsuit, our team will explain what you can reasonably expect during a trial and how best to prepare aggressive questioning.
How a Florida Sexual Harassment Lawyer Can Help
Before deciding what to do after experiencing sexual harassment at work, you will likely have many questions you need answered. Questions such as:
- Does this incident fall into the legal definition of sexual harassment?
- How should I respond to the harasser?
- Should I report the harassment?
- How can I protect myself from future harassment?
- How can I avoid retaliation from my employer for reporting the harassment?
These are questions an experienced employment attorney can answer.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or need assistance defending against sexual harassment claims, Contact us at Chanfrau & Chanfrau and speak with our sexual harassment attorney Kelly Chanfrau by calling (386) 258-7313 or (386) 439-7760.