Sexual harassment has burgeoned into a serious problem in American workplaces. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also abbreviated as the EEOC, found that as many as 85 percent of all working women experienced this uncomfortable and sometimes painful act.
Though this offense violates pure common decency and the professional standards of conduct established by many organizations, it is sometimes poorly defined and not always easy to prove. A Charlotte attorney will request concerned parties read on to gain a better understanding of this action’s definition and the steps affected individuals must take to hold prospective perpetrators legally and civilly responsible.
Definition Of Sexual Harassment
The EEOC maintains that there are two distinct forms of sexual harassment: a hostile work environment and the quid pro quo variety.
A hostile environment occurs when an employee’s superiors or co-workers engage in improper actions, such as making comments about a person’s appearance or habits, displaying offensive pictures, poking fun at someone’s perceived sexual orientation, citing crude sexual jokes or offering unwanted sexual advances towards the victim.
The legal definition of quid pro quo means “something for something.” In the case of a sexual harasser, sexual favors in exchange for some beneficial result. For example, a male in an authoritative position might request that a female subordinate perform any number of sexual acts in exchange for professional promotion or even to maintain one’s current employment.
Where Can Sexual Harassment Occur?
Typically, sexual harassment is most often associated with professional environments. However, such behavior might also take place in other notable institutions, like schools. For example, a male or female professor at a college or university might engage in this reprehensible conduct with students or subordinate faculty.
Proving Sexual Harassment Occurred
Said behavior is considered improper conduct. Therefore, those who believe they have been victims of this offense can initiate a civil action known as a sexual harassment suit. That said, success in such an endeavor is not simple and requires that a potential plaintiff and their lawyer build a significant case against the accused. Case-building necessitates meeting specific legal guidelines and producing discernible amounts of evidence.
If sexual harassment can be proven against a claimant’s superiors or even co-workers, the company or organization in question could be held accountable and be required to compensate the victim. However, the plaintiff must clearly demonstrate that a hostile work environment or some type of quid pro quo action occurred.
Success in a sexual harassment suit often rests on the plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate a pattern of ill behavior. Ergo, the victim is encouraged to perform evidence-gathering activities, such as, writing down the names of the perpetrators, the times and dates said offenses happened, and keep meticulous records explaining the words the accused parties said or the malfeasant actions they took.
Solid pieces of evidence include communications, such as, emails, texts, and written notes documenting demeaning actions and pictures or videos of indecent actions. Moreover, plaintiffs who lost their jobs, were demoted, or suffered some other type of punishment they believe was attributed to this behavior should document when these events occurred.
Reporting the Incident
Arguably, the most important step a victim can take is to immediately report the event or actions in question. Failure to engage in this critical step often proves detrimental to many claims. A common defensive strategy employed by accused parties is to claim that such issues were not brought to the attention of pertinent company authorities. Creating a record of the incident demonstrates that the entity in question knew of the problem.
Familiarizing Oneself with Company Policies
Many companies or institutions have handbooks or written guidelines detailing expected employee conduct. Should they exist, these resources will often contain sections or chapters dedicated to discussing said establishment’s sexual harassment policy. Purported victims should read this information thoroughly and denote specific instances where superiors or other employees violated these standards.
The strongest cases are built on the foundation of eyewitness testimony. Complainants are strongly encouraged to gather accounts of individuals who have either seen malfeasant acts occur or who were themselves victimized.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
Prior to filing a civil suit, one must first address the issue with their employer or the EEOC. After reviewing the facts, the EEOC might initiate a lawsuit on the complainant’s behalf. Even in instances where the EEOC opts not to pursue the issue any further, the purported victim still might be authored a right-to-sue letter, which authorizes said subject to proceed with the appropriate civil actions.
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