Sexual harassment statistics
In June of 2016, the EEOC released a report called “The Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.” Even the EEOC was astonished at the findings surrounding workplace sexual harassment. Regarding this study, here is what you need to know:
- 45 percent of all of the EEOC’s harassment claims were based on sex
- at least 25 percent of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace (some studies showed it as high as 85 percent!)
- 75 percent of harassment victims experienced some form of retaliation
- at least 87 percent of victims of sexual harassment do not file a formal complaint
- sexual harassment claims cost companies millions of dollars
How to tell if you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace?
What is considered sexual harassment at work, and how can you tell the difference from non-sexual harassment. It is important to understand what the legal definition of sexual harassment is. According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
The most common types of sexual harassment in the workplace are:
- sexual coercion – refers to threats or bribes to force the victim into an unwanted sexual relationship with the harasser. An example of this would be someone in authority threatening to fire an employee if they don’t agree to sex.
- unwanted sexual attention – refers to sexual advances that are unwanted. An example of this would be an employee pressuring another employee to go out on a date.
- gender harassment – refers to undermining workers simply due to their gender. An example of this would be a male coworker making a condescending comment to a woman that she can’t handle the line of work she’s in, just because she’s a female.
It is also helpful to know what sexual harassment is not when trying to determine whether you are a victim of sexual harassment. Simple teasing and offhand comments do not count as sexual harassment. If you are in a consensual office relationship, that does not make up sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is usually a series of incidents. Very rarely is sexual harassment just one isolated incident. It can be challenging to build a case on sexual harassment with only one incident.
What should I do if I’m a victim of sexual assault in the workplace?
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to know the steps to take. First and foremost, don’t just up and quit your job. While you may feel compelled to leave, it is important to understand that you may not be able to bring a lawsuit against your employer if you are no longer employed. If you feel that it is in your best interest to quit, make sure you do so after your claim has been filed.
In your employee handbook, there should be a policy that outlines the steps to take in the event of a sexual harassment situation. Make sure that you have a copy of this policy and follow it as described. It should tell you who to report to and what to do if the appropriate steps are not taken.
If you fear that you will lose your job or face further discrimination if you report the sexual harassment, it is important to know that you are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you. Likewise, the Act also protects against witnesses in a sexual harassment claim. So, if you are called to testify in a coworker’s sexual harassment claim, you will be protected against retaliation.
Just because you have a claim against your harasser does not automatically mean that the person will be fired. Termination usually only happens if the harassment was extremely severe. In most situations, your employer will take extra precautions to ensure that the harasser does not harass you or anyone else again. These precautions could include specialized training, separating you and the harasser, or even moving the person to an entirely different location.
Do I need to hire a sexual harassment lawyer?
If you have evidence that you have been sexually harassed, then you will want to speak with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to review your case. You may be entitled to compensation. Damages are based on the sort of harm you suffered because of the harassment.
Damages may include:
- back pay for lost wages and benefits
- front pay (in lieu of reinstatement)
- compensatory damages for pain and suffering
- punitive damages for disciplining the employer
Federal law places limits on how much a victim can be awarded for compensatory and punitive damages. The limit is based on how large your employer is.
- 5-100 employees, the limit is $50,000
- 101-200 employees, the limit is $100,000
- 20-500 employees, the limit is $200,000
- more than 500 employees, the limit is $300,000
At the state level (California Fair Employment and Housing Act), there are no limits on the amount of recoverable compensatory or punitive damages in employment discrimination cases. California also allows both attorneys’ fees and the cost of litigation to be recovered.
An experienced attorney knows how to navigate the law and can formulate an effective strategy to overcome the common pitfalls in workplace sexual harassment cases. If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, contact Rizio Liberty Lipinsky today!