You like your workplace, and you get along with almost everyone in it. But there’s one coworker who sets you on edge. And now, that coworker made a lewd comment at a work event.
It’s not the first time this has happened, and each time was as uncomfortable as the last. You really like your job, but you dread every potential interaction with that coworker, to the point that you’re starting to dread going to work. It’s an untenable situation, but you’re worried about the long-term repercussions of making waves.
If so, you’re not alone. A 2019 study found that 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, with verbal harassment being the most common form.
The question is, when does an uncomfortable and distressing situation warrant talking to a sexual harassment lawyer? We’re here to offer some insight on when to get in touch with an attorney about your options.
The first step is to understand when you have a case, and that means understanding what sexual harassment entails.
Sexual harassment and sexual discrimination refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other conduct of a sexual nature (verbal or physical) when either:
Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal to harass or discriminate against another person (employee or applicant) because of their sex, including physical and verbal harassment.
However, the harassment does not need to be of a sexual nature—it can, for example, include offensive comments about a person’s sex, such as harassing a woman by making offensive remarks about women in general. Victims and harassers may be men or women, and harassers and victims can be the same sex. Harassers and victims can be supervisors, subordinates, colleagues, customers, and clients.
Now, teasing, , and offhand comments are not automatically illegal. It is harassment or discrimination when the comments or conduct is pervasive or so severe enough that it creates a hostile or offensive environment which adversely affects the victim or when it creates an adverse outcome for the victim, such as firing or a demotion. Also, it could be that the environment is hostile enough that the victim is miserable at work so that it is causing emotional duress and an inability to function normally.
In a civil case, you are essentially trying to prove that your harasser inflicted demonstrable harm upon you for which you deserve compensation. The burden of proof is different than in criminal cases—you do not need to prove that your harasser is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but rather that a preponderance of evidence demonstrates that your harasser inflicted damages (mental, emotional, physical or monetary) on you.
As such, a sexual harassment lawyer will look for evidence that can prove that your case meets the legal criteria to qualify as sexual harassment or discrimination—and they’ll look at evidence that the opposing counsel may use against you.
For example, one of the first questions your attorney will consider is whether the conduct was genuinely unwelcome (and whether the opposing counsel may be able to argue otherwise). Let’s say you engaged in sexual banter yourself and now state that such conduct is unwelcome. Unfortunately, you may have a difficult time proving that the conduct was truly unwelcome.
Your attorney will also consider whether a reasonable person in your shoes would find the conduct offensive. A cubicle calendar depicting female athletes in sportswear may be distasteful to some, but it will be difficult to argue that the calendar’s presence created a hostile or offensive work environment without additional evidence of inappropriate and harmful behavior.
Your attorney will also assess evidence of the harassment and the damages inflicted upon you which form the basis for the case. Losing pay or getting demoted because you refused a demand for sexual favors, for example, is a clear case of damages.
When considering a harassment or discrimination lawsuit, it often feels like the cards are stacked against you. You have too many questions and not enough answers. You’re not sure what qualifies as evidence and what qualifies as harassment. You don’t know whether you deserve compensation for the suffering inflicted on you.
But most of all, you’re afraid.
This is where an attorney can help you.
An attorney can help you understand your case in legal terms, helping you understand how the law would view the case, what your options are to respond, and how your case might proceed if you decided to pursue a lawsuit. They can also help give you the foundation you need to take the next step.
Compassionate attorneys are more than just someone to argue the details of your case. They help you understand your case, offer the support you need to fight for the respect you deserve, and above all, they stand up for you.
That’s where we come in.
At Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys, we know that our clients come to us in the most difficult moments of their lives. That’s why all of our attorneys treat their clients with the care they would give to their own families.
If you or a loved one is considering a sexual harassment lawsuit, you need a sexual harassment attorney that will work with you and approach your case with the diligence and dedication of a trial attorney, one who knows what it takes to be successful. Our team is made of attorneys who do the work, who value honesty, hard work, and commitment above all else.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, schedule your free consultation today.