Like many topics in employment law, there’s a lot of nuance with regard to sexual harassment at work. While this is an often-discussed topic – especially in light of the #MeToo movement – and activists have done much to raise awareness, there are many things about sexual harassment that a lot of people don’t know.
Some of those lesser-known facts can make a difference in whether or not a new claim is filed and another step toward seeking justice is made. It’s in this spirit that we wish to present five things that people don’t often know about sexual harassment cases.
If you wish to speak with an attorney about a potential sexual harassment claim – especially after reading this list – don’t hesitate to contact our lawyers at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP for a free consultation.
1. The Incident You Report Doesn’t Have to Involve You
While many sexual harassment lawsuits center on claims the plaintiff makes about what happened to her or himself, it doesn’t necessarily have to work like that. There are a number of reasons why people who are targeted for sexual harassment won’t take action – and a lot of it comes down to the fear of what can happen to them if they do.
The individual directly experiencing the harassment doesn’t need to be the person who reports it to management or, in some cases, even files a lawsuit. This is because sexual harassment is often so frequent or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment – and the thing about such an environment is that it can create a threatening or distracting atmosphere that all employees must live within.
This is, in essence, why you can file a sexual harassment claim even when you’re not the targeted individual. Bear in mind this doesn’t mean you would file on behalf of that person. Whether or not they want to pursue their own case is entirely up to them.
2. Harassment Doesn’t Have to Be Verbal or Physical
Sexual harassment is all about the things people can do or say to you or someone else – right? Most cases involve these two elements of abuse, but there’s a third option most people don’t consider because it can hide in plain sight, so to speak.
Think about the trope of the office swimsuit calendar. This relic from a bygone era is indicative of sexual harassment that passively impacts employees. When posters, calendars, mousepads, screensavers, desktop backgrounds, and other decorative items around the office feature sexual or sexualized imagery of any body – male or female – they can create a hostile work environment that makes it difficult or impossible for certain employees to feel safe or focused enough to do their work.
It’s worth noting here that passive sexual harassment isn’t limited to imagery. The same can be true for quotes or sayings that are sexually offensive or discriminatory. When these are printed and posted on surfaces or included in email signatures, these too can create a hostile work environment.
3. Your Employer Can’t Retaliate Even If Your Claim Isn’t Proven
It is illegal under any circumstance for your employer to retaliate against you with regard to your sexual harassment report, claim, or lawsuit. Even if you lost the lawsuit, your employer is prohibited from terminating or otherwise enacting punishment against you for costing them time and money in court.
If employers could retaliate against employees who could not legally prove that sexual harassment occurred, it might discourage other employees from reporting their experiences in the future.
4. Even If You Quit Your Job, You Can Still Sue
An important myth we wish to dispel is that you can’t sue your former employer for sexual harassment if you voluntarily quit your job. Many people believe this, and it has two unfortunate outcomes: It leaves people feeling like they must stay with employers that abuse them and it leaves employees who quit feeling like they lost their chance to fight back.
Neither of these is true. If you experienced sexual harassment at work in California, you have one year from the date of the last incident to file a claim and pursue legal action.
This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and it’s crucial to know and understand for any employment law matter. Depending upon the type of claim you have, the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit may be different than other kinds of claims.
5. Sexual Harassment Is a Form of Gender Discrimination
People might think about sexual harassment and gender discrimination as two things that are sort of related but ultimately deal with separate matters.
The truth of the matter, however, that sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We may attribute certain activities or behaviors under the umbrella of sexual harassment, but that itself falls under the umbrella of gender discrimination.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you were sexually harassed at work, turn to the employment law attorneys at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP for assistance. Our firm is dedicated to helping clients fight for what they deserve after they have experienced sexual misconduct and abuse in the workplace.
We can help you fight for fair and just compensation that can help you move forward with your life after enduring sexual harassment. If you want to learn more about what we can do for you, please reach out to us today and request a complimentary initial consultation with our attorneys.
Get in touch with us by filling out our online contact form or by calling (619) 468-5222. Remember to ask about your FREE initial consultation with our attorneys.