#metoo: How Do I Know if I Have a Sexual Harassment Claim?

By E. Rose Kasweck | February 06, 2018

What Does It Mean To Be Sexually Harassed?

It’s something we’ve all heard of and many of us (especially the women in the crowd) have experienced. But what does it take for sexual harassment to become actionable?

Essentially, there are two types of sexual harassment that allow you to bring a charge against your employer:

  1. Hostile Work Environment – Where sexually inappropriate language, touching, or other behavior (including crude jokes), is so severe and pervasive that it creates an environment that is intimidating or demeaning to work in. This type of harassment can be perpetuated by a supervisor, co-worker, or even outside contractors and customers.
  2. Quid Pro Quo – Where requests for sexual favors are made in exchange for some benefit or to avoid some punishment. In this type of harassment, the perpetrator must be in some position of authority over the victim in order to carry out the reward or threat.

The damages from either type of harassment is calculated two ways:

  1. Financial Damages – Failure to comply with a quid pro quo request or any kind of push back against a hostile work environment can result in cut hours, termination, or lost work productivity affecting the employee’s bonuses or commissions. Even if there is no direct retaliation from the employer things can get so bad that it results in a “constructive termination” where the employee is too intimidated or otherwise feels like the can no longer work in that environment and quits. These damages are defined by the wages lost. If a terminated employee is able to find new work quickly at a comparable rate of pay, these damages will be necessarily limited.
  2. Emotional Damages – Even if there are no financial damages, the emotional strain of dealing with harassment can take a toll. Many harassed employees report higher levels of anxiety both at work and outside it, as well as depression, disrupted sleep patterns and other symptoms of stress. These non-quantifiable issues, as well the medical costs to treat them, can also be compensable.

There are other factors to consider before pursuing a sexual harassment claim.

  • Reporting requirements: If your company has a policy on reporting sexual harassment you must comply with that policy before bringing a formal charge.
  • Company size: If your workplace has fewer than 15 employees, they are not bound by these same protections.
  • Time: The amount of time the law allows for the company to respond to a charge, which gives the victim a lot of time to find a new job or create a new plan, decreasing the amount of damages the company is responsible for.

Despite the challenges, there are many instances where bringing a sexual harassment claim makes good judicial and financial sense. Whether or not a lawsuit is right for you there are steps that can be taken to make a change. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, contacting an attorney to walk you through these intricacies is the first step to figuring out what your options are and starting to get your power back. The attorneys at Fasig Brooks are here to help you. Call now for a free consultation: 850.224.3310.