Sexual Harassment Attorney Austin and Houston, TX
Both state and federal laws prohibit sexual harassment in Texas workplaces, but that does not make reporting sexual harassment any easier for victims. In many cases, victims of sexual harassment have fears about the problems they might face by reporting an incident that made them uncomfortable. They may even fear losing their jobs or facing retaliation.
Too many victims begin to question whether what they experienced constituted harassment and convince themselves that it is better to remain quiet. In truth, allowing other workers to engage in this behavior without consequence negatively impacts the workplace. Many workers find it difficult to focus on work when they feel unsafe or uncomfortable in their workplace.
If you were the victim of unwanted sexual advances in your workplace, you should know that you have rights and you should not be afraid to exercise them. You can determine the best path forward by retaining an experienced sexual harassment attorney.
The Austin and Houston sexual harassment lawyers at Leichter Law help sexual harassment victims in all kinds of workplaces. You can have a Houston or Austin sexual harassment attorney with our firm review your case and help you understand all of your legal options. To schedule your free, confidential consultation about your sexual harassment case, call (512) 495-9995 today.
Sexual Harassment Statistics
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), they received a total of 98,411 charges alleging harassment of any kind between 2018 and 2021. Of these nearly 100,000 charges, 27,291 alleged sexual harassment. This accounts for approximately 27% of all harassment charges filed with the EEOC from 2018-2021.
Also according to EEOC data from 2018-2021, approximately 62.2% of all harassment charges were filed by women. Approximately 78.2% of the sexual harassment charges were also filed by women. While these statistics show an obviously disproportionate number of harassment charges filed by women, anyone can be a victim of harassment.
Despite the prevalence of sexual harassment claims originating in the workplace, these cases are drastically underreported. According to data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), more than 85% of sexual harassment victims do not file formal legal charges. Around 70% of employees don’t even report the incidents to their employer.
3 Things to Know About Workplace Sexual Harassment
When you enter your office, you expect and deserve a safe atmosphere, free from harassment or illegal conduct. Legal protections have improved in recent decades to protect all workers, but sexual harassment still occurs every day in the United States. Tragically, these events take a heavy emotional toll, and harassed individuals often take months or years to recover. When the harassment ultimately leads to your dismissal from your company, the financial pressure can be overwhelming.
Sexual harassment cases are very nuanced, and many people still have misconceptions about them. Below, we outline three concepts that everyone should understand about any sexual harassment situation.
Many people think they know exactly what sexual harassment looks like. Overt, vulgar treatment immediately qualifies as harassment, but harassment can take more subtle forms as well. For decades, federal, state, and local governments have regulated workplace behavior in order to guarantee their workers feel safe and welcome. A workplace may be uninhabitable or offensive even without outright harassment, and you should know several things if your place of work feels unsafe.
Inappropriate visual conduct may merit a sexual harassment claim. Posters or photographs on the walls of your office should be appropriate and inoffensive. Texas employment law offers a range of protections to employees who feel their workplace is home to offensive images, and you should never hesitate to report pictures that make you uncomfortable. Sexual harassment can also take the form of a request to perform sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and physical or verbal harassment.
Unwelcome sexual advances in the workplace constitute sexual harassment, regardless of the employee’s status or tenure. Oftentimes, when harassment occurs, it is on a quid pro quo basis. A promotion, bonus, or other type of reward may be offered for allowing or acquiescing to the unwelcome request. If you have been the victim of unwelcome sexual advances or a quid pro quo offer, contacting an attorney should be your first move. While you may feel pressure not to speak out, your future is at risk if you do not take steps to protect yourself.
A hostile work environment qualifies as sexual harassment. While water cooler talk is crucial to a healthy office atmosphere, conversations frequently border on the inappropriate. It can be extremely difficult to speak up in those situations, and people often face social pressure to go along with the group. If you feel your workplace is hostile, you should first approach your superior. If that does not work, you may want to hire a lawyer to fight for just treatment.
What Federal Protections Are There to Protect Workers from Sexual Harassment?
According to federal and state law, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, which makes this behavior illegal everywhere in the United States. Although federal laws apply to employers with at least 15 employees, your state may have laws that cover even smaller employers.
So, what specific federal law protects workers from harassment of a sexual nature?
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Amended in 1991, Title VII introduced a federal sexual harassment law that gives employees the federal right to be free from workplace sexual harassment. Therefore, sexual harassment behaviors were made illegal throughout the nation.
What State Protections Are There to Protect Workers from Sexual Harassment?
The State of Texas also has a specific law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex or sexual harassment. The Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 applies to private employers with at least 15 employees, but to all local and state government entities regardless of size. This law was recently amended in September 2021 to give employees the following rights.
- The right to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against coworkers, supervisors, managers, shift leaders, and HR staff if they act “directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.
- The law now applies to workplaces with at least one or more employees.
- Lastly, the amendment expanded the time limit to file a sexual harassment complaint from 180 days to 300 days.
Employers are also required by this law to take an “immediate and corrective action” if they knew or should have known about the harassment. If your employer failed to do so, you have the right to work with an Austin sexual harassment lawyer to file a claim.
How Do I Know if I Experienced Sexual Harassment?
Many people don’t realize the full scope of behaviors that can be considered offensive conduct or sexual harassment. Although it can include physical touching and quid pro quo offers, other forms of harassment are much harder to identify. Below, we list some of the telltale signs you may be experiencing harassment.
- Fear or discomfort
- Unwanted touching
- Jokes or verbalizations about sexual topics
- Conversations about inappropriate or sexual content
- Sexual gestures
- Repeatedly asking for dates or favors
- Making sexual gestures toward another person
- Degrading or humiliating insults
- Displaying or showing pornographic material to others
What to Do When You Face Workplace Sexual Harassment
We understand that dealing with, let alone reporting, a sexual harassment matter can feel scary and uncomfortable. However, if or when you decide that enough is enough, you have the right to file a complaint and pursue a claim. Working with experienced sexual harassment attorneys is one way to find the best path to take after the harassing behavior occurs. At Leichter Law, we generally recommend taking the following steps.
- Document the harassment. If you keep a log of the incidents as they occur, companies will give more weight to your complaints, as you’re able to provide specific times and dates. Even seemingly small behaviors should be noted, as this can help you establish a pattern of behaviors.
- If you feel safe enough to do so, let the person know that their conduct is unwelcome, inappropriate, and uncomfortable. When you take the complaint to your employer, it helps if you’ve already established that the conduct was unwelcome.
- Contact an employment attorney with extensive knowledge of sexual harassment laws. While you can handle these cases on your own, they often become complicated due to their sensitive nature. Working with an attorney can help you feel more confident about your choices.
Who Is Liable for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Employers are generally liable for harassment unless they can prove that they tried to correct and prevent the harassment, and that the employee involved did not take advantage of these corrective measures. However, if the employer knew about the harassment or should have known about it, they can be held liable if they do not take action.
Other employees may also be held liable if they aided in the continuation of such harassment. Examples of other potentially liable parties include supervisors, HR staff, managers, and others.
Do I Need a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Texas?
If you have been sexually harassed, you probably have a lot of questions about what you should do. You are probably considering filing a report with a supervisor, but you may have concerns about a number of possible outcomes of filing a report, such as possible retaliation or a lack of response.
You may suspect that the person who harassed you will likely deny your accusation and you will be trapped in a “He-said/She-said” situation in which a third party has two different versions of events. Such a scenario does not inspire much confidence.
When you contact an attorney, they will be able to conduct an independent investigation of your incident to collect evidence to support your claims. Your lawyer can also take steps to help prevent any possible retaliation for reporting your incident and take necessary steps if an employer does retaliate.
In cases involving victims who left their positions after sexual harassment, they could be entitled to compensation associated with the costs relating to their job loss. An attorney will be able to determine the amount that you are owed and then fight to help you recover everything you are entitled to.
Why Choose Leichter Law to Handle My Case?
The Texas discrimination attorneys at Leichter Law Firm have helped clients obtain favorable settlements in sexual harassment cases. In one case, our firm was able to help a woman employed by an airline parts manufacturer who was terminated after refusing to work in an area with a co-worker who sexually harassed her by settling for a confidential amount.
Founder Louis Leichter received an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell in 2018, a peer rating denoting the highest level of professional excellence. David Langenfeld is Board Certified as a Specialist in Labor and Employment Law, which means he’s a legal expert in all areas related to employment law, including harassment.
Leichter Law Firm PC has office locations in Austin, Houston, and McAllen. Our lawyers are admitted to state and federal courts in Texas. Texas state law prohibits sexual harassment, and our team is here to help you fight for your legal rights.
Types of Sexual Harassment Cases We Handle
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines established in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations § 1604.11 state that sexual harassment involves requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- The conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment.
- The individual’s response to the conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions.
- It creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
The first two types of sexual harassment largely demonstrate what the EEOC refers to as quid pro quo sexual harassment, and the hostile work environment is typically the other major type of sexual harassment claim the EEOC handles.
The EEOC notes that harassment can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. It is entirely possible for a person of one gender to be harassed by a person of the same gender.
How to File a Sexual Harassment Claim in Texas
A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace should review their company’s policy for handling these types of issues. Most businesses ask that such complaints be filed with a company’s human resources department, but supervisors could also be the parties that complaints are filed with.
Victims and offenders may be invited to mediation when a signed charge is received by the TWC or EEOC. If either party declines mediation, the TWC or EEOC will conduct an investigation.
When an investigation finds evidence of sexual harassment, the TWC or EEOC may try to settle the case through an agreement that may provide monetary relief or force an employer to change certain policies. The TWC can also file a civil suit against an employer when a conciliation agreement is not successful.
Filing a lawsuit related to sexual harassment can be tricky. Some victims may be prohibited from speaking about their cases because of confidentiality agreements they signed. Action in state or federal court will require a victim to obtain a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC showing the agency investigated the case.
The EEOC will give you a Notice of Right to Sue when it closes its investigation. You can request a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC office investigating your charge if you want to file a lawsuit before the investigation is completed, but you only have 90 days to file the lawsuit once you receive the Notice of Right to Sue.
What Compensation Can I Expect in a Sexual Harassment Claim?
As a victim of sexual harassment, you have the right to a workplace free of fear and discomfort. You also have the right to obtain a fair settlement for any damages you suffered because of the incident. Every legal case is different, so your attorney will help you estimate the value of your claim. The potential damages you can collect include the following.
- Lost wages, including both back pay and front pay
- Medical bills
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
You can also pursue punitive damages against an employer who knows about the situation, but chooses to do nothing to stop it. Federal law caps the compensation amount for certain types of damages in sexual harassment cases at $300,000, but this cap differs depending on the size of the company.
- 15-100 employees: $50,000
- 101-200 employees: $100,000
- 201-500 employees: $200,000
- Over 500 employees: $300,000
Sexual Harassment Claim FAQs
No. It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for reporting sexual harassment, as this is a form of retaliation. Sexual harassment is strictly prohibited by federal and state law. If your employer retaliates against you for reporting harassment, you have the right to sue for damages.
So many reasons exist as to why a victim of sexual harassment may not choose to come forward. They may fear termination, retaliation, increased bullying, or even violence of some kind. However, our attorneys can give you the strength and support you need to stand up to workplace sexual harassment. Retaliation of any kind after reporting harassment is illegal on both a federal and state level.
Our attorneys understand the desire for confidentiality, so we will do everything in our power to ensure your right to privacy is protected. We are not only compassionate about your situation, but also determined to ensure that your voice is heard and your rights are protected.
Absolutely. Sexual harassment victims are not limited to one gender, and the people who commit harassment can also be of any gender. Women can certainly be harassed by other women, and men are capable of being harassed by other men. You should not let the fact that your harassment was committed by somebody of the same sex as you make you think that you do not have a case.
Federal laws allow 180 days for a victim to report sexual harassment. This time limit is extended to 300 days in states that have specific anti-discrimination laws. Because Texas has an anti-discrimination law, claimants may have 300 days to file.
Yes, they are. In fact, as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit noted in its opinion in Gardner v. CLC of Pascagoula, L.L.C., No. 17-60072 (5th Cir. June 29, 2018), Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations § 1604.11(e) holds that an employer can be responsible for the acts of non-employees. When any company learns that one of its employees is being sexually harassed by any other employee or even non-employee, the employer has to take immediate steps to end the harassment.
Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Houston with Leichter Law Today
If you have witnessed or been a victim of sexual harassment, you have a right to report it and recover any damages you suffered. At Leichter Law, we are extremely passionate about workers’ rights, and we will always use our legal expertise to the employee’s advantage. Whether you have been a victim of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful termination, our Texas employment lawyers are here for you. To schedule your free, confidential consultation with us, please call our office at (512) 495-9995 today.