Career Advice

Should I Sue My Coworkers Or Boss for Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace remains a pressing issue in 2021. According to a report, 63 percent of women from age 16-24 have experienced a form of sexual harassment while on the job. Across the board, 25 percent of women surveyed said a colleague, often a senior manager, had made an inappropriate remark aimed at them at some point during their career. 

The most unsettling fact about this finding is that only around 20% of all women who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace feel comfortable enough to report it to their HR team or a senior manager. While there are many factors that cause the hesitancy, being informed about the company's harassment policies would be helpful for anyone. Today, we are going to go over a few determining steps whether or not you should sue your coworkers or boss for sexual harassment allegations.

What considers as sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms but the most common among the rest are off-color jokes, commenting on someone’s physical attributes, displaying sexually suggestive pictures, using crude language, and making obscene gestures. Aside from that, according to Hage Hodes Attorneys, there are two forms of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Quid pro quo harassment

An instance when a manager or other authority figure requires sexual favors in exchange for work benefits (e.g. a raise, promotion, pay cut or demotion).

Hostile work environment harassment

Any sexually-based conduct that is pervasive and unwelcome which will affect an employee’s ability to work. To be included in this category, the activities should be severe enough for an individual to consider the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive. It is important to note that an employee does not have to be the target of the conduct to file a hostile work environment claim.

Read Also: Working with Difficult Coworkers Do’s and Don'ts

What to do before filing out a lawsuit 

The first thing you want to do if you have been sexually assaulted is to make the incident, one way or another, reported and documented legally by your company. This is important because according to Emrepolat, there had been cases where employers refused to take accountability by stating that they had no knowledge of the harassment and therefore, did not have the opportunity to stop the harassment.

The responsibility to process a sexual harassment alegation naturally falls to HR department. Your company’s employee handbook should have information on procedures for reporting sexual harassment. If the information is not available, simply report it to one of the HR persons in your company. However, if the harasser is someone from HR, you might want to turn to your direct manager and then escalate the complaint to a higher-level manager or even the owner or CEO of the company. So long as the complaint is made, the employer will be liable to your case moving forwards.

When filing a lawsuit against your coworker or boss

If you find problems and or are not satisfied with your company’s investigation, you can go to a local or state agency to file a complaint. In fact, you can pursue this at the same time you report the incident to your employer. If the agency deems that your case is warranted, you will be issued a “right to sue” letter by the agency, allowing you to bring the case to court.

However, keep in mind that according to Employement Lawyers Club, there are reasons why one sexual harassment case might be worth more than another including:

  • Involvement with additional or other cases complained about the same sexual harasser

  • The employer is large enough to pay a substantial settlement or judgment

  • The sexual harassment victim’s emotional turmoil was documented by a therapist

At the end of the day, it is a personal decision whether a victim should sue for sexual harassment or not. Workplace sexual harassment legal issues can be complicated and the best thing to do is to talk with professional lawyers about it. If they feel the sexual harassment was not severe enough to warrant a legal case, they will tell the potential client, or attempt to resolve the matter without litigation. All in all, it should be an organization’s best interest to protect their employees and have sexual harassment prevention strategies in place.

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