Sexual harassment occurs more frequently and is punished less often than any of us would like. There are many barriers that prevent employee victims from speaking out or from employers taking responsibility. This article dives into several legal topics surrounding workplace harassment to help everyone understand it better and fight back against it more effectively, including:
There are several ways in which an employee can pursue a sexual harassment claim. Which one you should choose depends on the nature of your employer.
Suppose you are employed by a municipality, a city, a state, or a governmental entity that is connected in any way to the state, such as the University of Washington. In that case, you must file a tort claim. Suppose you fail to do so and you pursue your claim with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) or the Washington State Human Rights Commission. Your case can be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because you had not checked off that small technicality of filing a tort claim. So that should always be your first step.
The EEOC is a federal agency and often one of the easiest places to file a complaint for discrimination, including sexual harassment. The Washington State Human Rights Commission, on the other hand, is a state agency. However, when you file with one, you may request that that filing be a duplicate filing with the other, so you don't have to file two separate complaints.
Federal statutes empower the EEOC to investigate complaints of discrimination, and, as a result, they make it very easy to make such complaints. If the complaint is purely federal, you only need to go to eeoc.gov. It has an excellent website that walks you through every element of discrimination and what you can do, even if you are a federal employee (which has a different system than civilian employees).
It is very good and just walks you through everything you need about your situation. It will provide you with a login and a portal. Tell you about the different types of cases they have litigated and guide you through the necessary procedures, including explaining how to file a charge and find your local EEOC office. It is an exceptional resource for employees but also employers!
If your employer is not a governmental entity but rather a private business, there are several additional things that you can and should do.
The first step you should never skip is to check your personnel handbook. The vast majority of companies have such a handbook, which will include procedures for how you should proceed. Going through whatever those steps are will help avoid any claims of deniability by the employer later, even if they do not help at all. And a lot of times, people forget about that.
Once you have checked your personnel handbook and followed those procedures. If you are a union member, file a grievance with your union. If it is your manager or supervisor making the overtures to you, report everything in writing.
A lot of people make the mistake of doing everything verbally. Inevitably, the person they reported to gets selective amnesia and does not recall them ever making a complaint. Send an email, put it in writing to your HR department, and they will have a duty to investigate it. Always make sure there's a written paper trail as to your complaints.
When an employee is hired, they are given a lot of papers to sign. You have to sign papers for personnel, and you have to sign papers for an employee badge, and you get access to certain facilities and are given keys. Sometimes, that can be overwhelming when you only want to get a job. Unfortunately, many employers will take advantage of that and slip in something called an arbitration agreement.
An arbitration agreement is a waiver of your right to proceed in a courtroom or with a jury if and when you should ever feel that you are being discriminated against or have a claim against your employer.
A lot of employees received these papers and went ahead and signed them. You might have been working there for 10 or 15 years and didn’t even read them at the time they were signed. Then, later, they come back to bite you when your employer uses them as a defense to avoid you suing them in court. Instead, you will have to go through a binding arbitration agreement.
These are important tactics that come up regularly that can dismiss or have an adverse effect on your case if you are not aware of them.
For more information on Legal Action For Workplace Sexual Harassment, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (253) 400-2232 today.