You can sue for sexual harassment if a supervisor or manager verbally or physically harassed you in a sexual manner. In order to sue for a coworker’s sexual harassment the employer must have prior and advanced knowledge that the coworker engaged in sexual harassment or was likely to engage in sexual harassment. Prior and advanced knowledge of sexual harassment means somebody complained about the coworker’s sexual harassment earlier, or her/his propensity to sexually harass. It also includes situations where you previously complained to a supervisor or management about the sexual harassment and it continued after you complained.
What constitutes sexual harassment depends on its likely effect on somebody of the same sex, background, educational level, financial level, age, and life experience as the victim of sexual harassment. Many actions are overt acts of sexual harassment. Groping and feeling out a woman is most likely to constitute sexual harassment if the person doing the touching does not have the woman’s consent. Discussing how somebody looks in a particular outfit is a grayer area and may depend upon the party’s relationship and whether the words are particularly focus on the sexual nature of body parts.
Employees can also sue for sexual harassment if they are fired from their jobs, or forced to quit, due to complaints of sexual harassment they made. Retaliation short of the job ending is a grayer area. What constitutes retaliation in the eyes of the court is often a challenge. Only an experienced workplace sexual harassment lawyer can advise a potential client on whether what they describe as retaliation is actionable retaliation for a sexual harassment complaint.
A sexual harassment lawsuit can be brought after exhausting administrative remedies with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) or EEOC. The law requires these steps be taken before going to court. It is ill-advised for non-lawyers to attempt to exhaust administrative remedies with these government agencies. Non-lawyers and inexperienced sexual harassment attorneys may fail to check off the right boxes, or include facts about the worst examples of sexual harassment. From the start, it is important to be represented by an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. Besides not providing the right information, identifying the right people, or getting the proper legal name in the administrative charges somebody experienced in the process may also file with the wrong administrative agency. The EEOC is not necessarily the best place to file. California law is more favorable than Federal law, and the period of time to sue after filing DFEH charges and obtaining a right-to-sue letter is much longer than after the EEOC issues a right-to-sue letter.
It is inherently unlikely that without an experienced sexual harassment lawyer a victim of sexual harassment will be able to maintain their own sexual harassment lawsuit let alone achieve justice. Litigation is not always about the truth and what happened. Just because you know something happened does not mean you will win. Besides being able to effectively tell your story, locate witnesses who are truly helpful and not those who you think might help but do not and you end up perpetuating testimony that does not help your case, the procedural nature of court or arbitration is beyond what any educated person who is a non-lawyer could ever handle. Furthermore, most people suing for sexual harassment seek some type of compensation. Lay people have no idea how to present damages let alone what types of damages are available in a sexual harassment case.
Rather than provide step-by-step basics on how to sue for sexual harassment, and screw it all up just like you were operating on yourself, there is one piece of legal advice that applies to all situations GET AN EXPERIENCED SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWYER.
You should sue for sexual harassment if the harassment and its after-effects have damaged you. Damages include psychological damage, needing to find another job, professional humiliation in the community, and economic losses. Vindictive and justice are other reasons to sue for sexual harassment. An experienced sexual harassment law firm can advise whether you have a case. Let them make the decision whether your case meets the four-corners of the law. Do not second guess them. What works and does not work legally is something an experienced sexual harassment lawyer knows. It is based upon other cases they have been involved in; not the opinions of friends, family, reading what might be posted online, or trying to decipher the law on sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment lawsuits do take time. Companies do not throw up their hands and quickly settle. Every company of any size has already been hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit. The fact they are being sued for sexual harassment is not so ground breaking or embarrassing they will stop everything they are doing and write a gigantic check that exceeds the damage the victim suffered or what they would obtain in court if the case were fully proven and tried to a jury.
Ultimately, suing for sexual harassment is a personal decision. Many victims think they need to clear the situation with their family. No, their case is their case just like their body is their body. It should not be your spouse’s decision whether you sue for sexual harassment.
Experienced sexual harassment lawyers will take sexual harassment cases on a contingency. This means they are only paid when and if money is collected from the employer. They are doing a tremendous service to the public. Do not abuse that service. Contact a sexual harassment lawyer when you are ready to go forward. Tell the sexual harassment lawyer everything; the whole story. Be 100% truthful. Don’t let the fact you kissed the harasser once first come out during your deposition. Finally, be ready to commit. Be ready to hire a sexual harassment lawyer, and never take it upon yourself to try to negotiate your case behind their back. That will expose you to all sorts of legal problems, and if the settlement does not go forward good luck ever getting a meaningful settlement after you have sent signals you will take an amount a sexual harassment lawyer never would have started with.
This article was written by Karl Gerber of the Employment Lawyers Group. He has been a licensed attorney in California since 1993 as well as in three other states since 2010. He has represented persons of all gender identifications in sexual harassment lawsuits for decades.