What is sexual harassment? An employee’s guide

Workplace sexual harassment is illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. With the following scenarios, you have legal recourse:

  • Someone is sexually harassing you at work which creates a hostile work environment for you. 
  • You have been forced to quit your job because you can no longer tolerate sexual harassment
  • After filing a sexual harassment complaint against your company, your boss fired you. 

In these cases, you might be able to file an employment lawsuit seeking monetary damages. 

You may also be entitled to other relief in the civil justice system.

Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace causes significant emotional pain and trauma to victims. If you have complained about sexual harassment and have not seen any positive change in your workplace, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney

Which acts result in sexual harassment settlements?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including local and state governments. It also applies to employment agencies, the federal government, and labor organizations. Examples of workplace sexual harassment include:

  • Repeatedly making unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requesting sexual favors
  • Miscellaneous verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment is conduct that implicitly or explicitly impacts a person’s employment. It could unreasonably interfere with an individual’s ability to perform his or her job. It creates a hostile or offensive work environment.

Remember that perpetrators of sexual harassment can be men or women. The victim does not need to be the opposite sex of the harasser. The harasser could be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a colleague, or even someone outside of the organization such as a client or customer. The victim does not have to be the person that was directly harassed. A victim could be anyone that suffered the consequences of a harasser’s actions.

How do you settle a sexual harassment lawsuit?

Much to the surprise of many clients, most sexual harassment cases are not tried before a jury. Both sides agree on a settlement outside of court.. There are several reasons for this.

Usually both sides wish to avoid the time and costs associated with going to court. Beyond that, the outcome of a court case can be challenging to predict– you never know who might be on the jury or what evidence or claims might surface later on.

A settlement provides a plaintiff with the security of a monetary payment. It helps them avoid the possibility of trauma or embarrassment from testifying publicly. Employers often prefer to settle as well in order to avoid negative public exposure. However, you should always speak to an attorney before considering any settlement.

Where can sexual harassment occur?

Sexual harassment can occur both at work and during after-hours conversations, exchanges in hallways, and non-office settings of employees. It does not necessarily need to occur between two coworkers or an employer and employee. Someone may become a victim of sexual harassment from a patron or customer. 

How much is my sexual harassment settlement worth?

In a sexual harassment case, if you are successful as a plaintiff, you will receive damages for the lossess you sustained due to the harassment.

The following is a list of the most common types of damages you could receive as a plaintiff in a workplace sexual harassment case:

Back pay

If you lost your job or faced wrongfully termination because of sexual harassment, you are entitled to receive back pay. Back pay is compensation you would have received since being wrongfully terminated such as:

  • Wages
  • Benefits
  • Any other type of compensation the employee would have earned since they were wrongfully terminated up to the date of a jury award or judgement 
    • Bonuses
    • Tips
    • Commissions
    • Vacation or sick pay
    • Retirement or pension benefits
    • Stock options
    • The value of benefits such as health or life insurance

Front pay

Front pay is a type of payment for the time you spend between settlement and reinstatement at work. If reinstatement is no longer possible because the job isn’t available any longer, front pay is based on future potential earnings. These calculations factor in the plaintiff’s age, potential future wages and benefits as well as seniority at his or her previous job.

Punitive damages

Punitive damages punish the illegal actions of your employer. If you can prove that your employer knew about ongoing sexual harassment but did nothing to change the workplace culture, it could be viewed as intentional or even egregious conduct. Juries decide whether or not to award punitive damages based on evidence presented in court. 

Attorneys’ fees

Sometimes plaintiffs can also receive reimbursement for attorneys’ fees. 

Do I need to worry about what my boss will do?

Far too many victims of sexual harassment do not come forward because they fear retaliation. In most, if not all cases of sexual harassment, there is an element of power imbalance. The victim is often afraid of losing their job or future opportunities. Don’t forget: it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who file sexual harassment complaints. You cannot be fired or demoted because you reported sexual harassment. 

How can a sexual harassment attorney help me?

Sexual harassment settlements can be intimidating, stressful, and sometimes even traumatizing. Are you considering filing a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit? One of the most important steps you can take is to promptly contact an experienced Texas employment lawyer. You want someone you can trust who has a stellar track record of handling workplace sexual harassment cases.

Unfortunately, many employers do not take victims seriously. Enlisting the help of an experienced sexual harassment attorney will help your employer realize the gravity of their wrongdoing. 

Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Texas 

Attorney David Langenfeld is Board Certified as a Specialist in Labor and Employment Law. Only 1% of attorneys in Texas have earned the honor of being Board Certified this field. Langenfeld developed an aggressive style as a criminal defense attorney, prior to becoming an employment law specialist. He brings his passion and trial experience to his Labor and Employment Law Practice. 

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