What Kind Of Injury Do I Have To Suffer To Have A Claim For Sexual Harassment?
Anyone who suffers emotional distress caused by unwanted harassing conduct has a legal claim. The harm suffered has to be based on conduct that is severe or pervasive. For example, a female is at work and her coworker comes up and asked her out on a date. That is not enough to make a claim for sexual harassment. Unwanted harassing conduct has to be severe or pervasive. It has to be more than just an isolated comment. Pervasive means repeated or numerous complaints of unwanted harassing conduct over a period of time. Severe usually means something very graphic or intimidating, like sexual assault, grabbing someone in a sexual manner, or trapping someone inside an office and telling them they’re going to be raped.
When Is My Employer Legally Responsible For Sexual Harassment committed By Employees?
There are two ways an employer will face legal liability for employees engaging in unwanted harassing conduct. The first is if it’s a supervisor. A supervisor who engages in unwanted harassing conduct toward a subordinate makes the company strictly liable for the acts of the supervisor. If a sexual harassment victim complains of harassment by a coworker, the employer is not responsible for the acts of the coworker, except where the employer knew or should have known of the harassing conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
If an employee takes a cell phone with a naked image and puts it in front of the face of a coworker and then reaches out and gropes that coworker, that conduct is sufficiently severe and pervasive to amount to sexual harassment, as long as the victim was offended and mentally distressed about it. Will the company be responsible for that conduct? If it’s a supervisor, yes. If it’s a coworker, no. Only the coworker would be responsible for engaging in that conduct. The only way the employer would be on the hook for that conduct is if the employer had reason to believe that the coworker had already done something like that or would be subject to doing that.
If another coworker had complained against the same employee previously, the company had knowledge of the unwanted harassing conduct from the coworker and that gives the new victim the opportunity to say the employer knew of the former unwanted harassing conduct and should have taken immediate and appropriate corrective action.
If I File A Complaint Everyone At Work Will Know And I Don’t Want To Deal With That. What Do I Do?
If someone wants to file a complaint for harassment, it’s because it has become something that the employee can no longer live with. If the employee is embarrassed about having to have his or her coworkers know about the harassment or doesn’t want to deal with being known as someone who reported harassment, there are two choices. They can report it or they can choose not to report it and live with the consequences. If the person doesn’t report it right away, it will be more difficult for people to believe them later. Also, they must think of all the other people who might be able to avoid the harassing conduct if only they would’ve reported it. The act of reporting is significant in making the workplace safe for everyone.
If someone were to file a complaint, there are steps we take, as lawyers, to make sure that the employer knows not to do anything to punish the victim. If any of that happens, the case actually gets better and stronger and can be worth more money. If the employer takes an adverse job action against someone who reports harassment, they also add a claim for retaliation, which sometimes can be worth more than the claim for harassment.