It’s illegal to harass a job applicant or employee in the workplace because of their sex. Sexual harassment refers explicitly to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other harassing actions of a sexual nature. Harassment also includes offensive remarks about someone’s sex. Men and women suffer harassment in the workplace every day, but some choose not to take action for fear of retaliation.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, the only way you can ensure the behavior changes is to report the behavior with your employer per their company policy. Your employer cannot legally retaliate against you when you report sexual harassment. It’s in your best interest to consult an experienced sexual harassment lawyer at Perkins Asbill. Until you have the chance to meet with an attorney, here is a broad overview of the process of filing a harassment claim and what you can expect afterward.
Filing an Internal Complaint with Your Employer
The first step to stop sexual harassment at your job is to file an internal complaint. Your employer has a legal duty to have a policy in place for employees to report sexual harassment. Once you file your complaint with your employer, they must investigate the incident(s) and take swift action to prevent continued harassment. For some sexual harassment victims, filing an internal complaint alleviates the issue, and no further action is necessary. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
If your employer fails to take corrective action and you continue to experience sexual harassment, you might have to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Company policies concerning sexual harassment vary across organizations. However, you can expect some general things to occur after you file an internal sexual harassment complaint.
Your Employer Should Promptly Investigate Your Complaint
Once you file your complaint, your employer has a legal responsibility to take your report seriously. They should have a designated person or department, likely a human resources representative, who initiates an investigation quickly. The person assigned to your complaint will typically gather additional information based on the statement you provided. They will want to know specifics about the conduct you deem as sexual harassment, who has been harassing you, and the names of co-workers, clients, or others who witnessed the harassment. Additionally, the person investigating the case will want to know about anyone else who suffered harassment from the same person.
Depending on the depth of your internal sexual harassment complaint, you might have to provide more information, including detailed descriptions of the harassment and a chronological account of multiple incidents. You can also expect the investigator to ask you why you waited to report the harassment if you did not immediately file a complaint. Ultimately, the investigator will decide whether sexual harassment occurred.
Your Employer Should Take Corrective Action Against Your Harasser
From a legal standpoint, not all offensive comments of a sexual nature qualify as harassment. However, suppose the harassment has occurred so frequently that it created a hostile work environment for you or led to an adverse decision related to your employment. In that case, the investigator will concur that sexual harassment occurred. At this point, your employer needs to take corrective action against your harasser. Examples of corrective measures include:
- An oral or written warning
- Deferred promotion
- Deferred pay increase
Your Employer Cannot Retaliate Against You for Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint
Retaliating against an employee for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law, even if the investigation concluded that sexual harassment did not occur. You must watch for signs of retaliation or hostility after you file a complaint. Examples of adverse treatment that might constitute retaliation:
- Removal from special projects
If your employer terminates you, demotes you, or lets others create a hostile work environment after you complain about sexual harassment, the law permits you to file a retaliation claim against them.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint with the EEOC
If your employer did not take your internal complaint seriously and investigate your report, did not take corrective action against your harasser to stop the behavior, or retaliated against you, your next step is to file a formal complaint with the EEOC. They enforce federal laws against discrimination and investigate employee discrimination and harassment complaints.
You can initiate an investigation by filing a complaint online. However, you will eventually have to speak with an EEOC counselor. The closest EEOC field office to Sacramento is in San Francisco. Your sexual harassment complaint needs to include your name, address, phone number, description of harassment, date of the incident(s), why you feel you were harassed, the damages you have suffered, and your signature.
The EEOC will send a confirmation that they have received your formal complaint and assign a representative to your case. The representative will review and investigate your case. Under federal law, the EEOC has 180 days from the final harassment incident to complete its investigation. If you haven’t received any communication, you can request the investigator’s ruling about your case.
If the investigator did not find you have a viable harassment claim, you can request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. If the investigator found harassment occurred, they might negotiate a settlement with your employer. You can choose to accept or deny the settlement.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyer
When employers respond appropriately and quickly to reports of sexual harassment, hiring an attorney isn’t always necessary. However, if your employer ignored your complaint, retaliates against you for filing a report, or refuses to comply with the terms of a settlement with EEOC, you need an experienced sexual harassment attorney on your side.
As you proceed through the EEOC complaint process, you might receive a notice that you can file a lawsuit against your employer. An experienced attorney can help you bring a lawsuit against your employer in the applicable court and ensure you meet all deadlines and do not miss out on the opportunity to recover damages.
The skilled legal team at Perkins Asbill understands the challenges of dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, and we are here to help. If you live in Northern California, contact us at 916-446-2000 or online to discuss the specifics of your case and determine your next steps.