In a rapidly evolving society that is continuing to emphasize equality and justice, understanding the nuances of workplace conduct has become even more crucial than ever before. When exploring the different instances of abuse that can happen within the walls of an organization, the concept of sexual harassment stands out. If you believe you have faced this type of unjustified abuse at work, an Elk Grove sexual harassment lawyer can make a huge difference in bringing this issue to light.
These legal professionals play an essential role in helping clients understand their rights and how to address these issues to keep the behavior from happening again in the future.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is more than just unwanted attention at work. It is an active infringement on someone’s personal rights and dignity. It can be a scenario of unwelcome sexual advances or even a form of sex discrimination where a specific employee is known for making discriminatory comments about men or women.
Examples of sexual harassment at work can include:
- Unwanted physical contact. This can be some of the most overt sexual harassment behaviors in the workplace. When someone physically touches you without permission, it is cause for alarm. This can include touching, patting, or brushing up against someone without receiving formal consent.
In even more apparent scenarios, an individual could be hugged, kissed, or even physically assaulted against their own will. The most defining element of these physical scenarios that help prove it was a form of sexual harassment is that the victim did not provide consent.
- Verbal harassment. Words can be just as damaging to one’s mental health as a physical touch. It is inappropriate to make any sexual comments, jokes, or lewd remarks about any colleague at work. This also includes any conversations about someone’s sex life at work, commenting on someone’s clothing choices, or even persistently asking someone for their phone number after receiving several denials.
- Non-verbal gestures. It is possible to communicate a sexually suggestive message without saying a single word. Staring at someone for a long period of time or making an obscene gesture can communicate a sexual undertone. This can make someone feel uncomfortable at work and impact the quality of their work.
- Visual displays. Any work office should be completely free of any explicit content. However, this norm is sometimes broken. For example, a manager may have a poster hanging in their office that has a woman barely clothed. It could also include colleagues sharing inappropriate photos with others during work hours.
- Quid Pro Quo behavior. This is a Latin term which means “something for something.” In the context of sexual harassment at work, it could be a scenario where an executive leader implies that an employee will not receive something until they start by performing a sexual favor. This could be holding back a promotion or threatening to fire the individual.
- Spreading rumors. It is not uncommon for work colleagues to gossip in the office, but this can get out of hand quickly. If anyone is found to be purposefully spreading harmful or misinformed information about a colleague in an attempt to tarnish their reputation, it can be considered a form of sexual harassment. This can become deeply distressing to the individual and can cause even more mental harm to the individual outside of work.
These are just some of the many different forms of sexual harassment that can happen at work. If something doesn’t feel right, it may be something that shouldn’t be happening at work. Be sure to connect with a sex discrimination attorney as soon as you feel this way, as they will listen to the situation and share if they believe it warrants an official sexual harassment claim.
What Is Sexual Harassment Retaliation?
Sexual harassment retaliation refers to any action taken against an individual because they reported sexual abuse in the workplace. This is typically an effort made by the individual in power who participated in the sexual harassment to try and silence the employee and keep themself out of trouble.
Retaliation can manifest in many different forms. Some of the most commonly seen include:
- Professional repercussions. Sometimes, an employee will face threats of a demotion if they are to continue advancing a sexual harassment claim. Because this can be an obvious form of retaliation that would be noticed by others at work, professional repercussions can also be milder.
For example, an employer could deny a raise that the individual was originally going to receive. This is more discreet, as it is taboo to talk about salaries with other colleagues at work.
- Termination. Sometimes, an individual is a victim of wrongful termination because they reported the harassment. Because most employees are “employed at will,” an employer is not required to give a specific reason why they are being let go.
However, this condition of employment does not allow for someone to be fired because they plan to report abuse. This is a protection under employment law and can be addressed by working with a sexual harassment attorney.
- Interpersonal repercussions. Another attempt to discreetly retaliate against an employee for reporting abuse is through interpersonal channels. This could be a boss intentionally ostracizing the individual or sharing false rumors to help isolate them from different social circles in the organization. This can intimidate an employee and make them feel like no one will have their back at work to testify on the abuse if needed.
- Increased harassment. Unfortunately, sometimes attempting to report an unwanted behavior can make it occur more. This can be seen as a form of punishment and an attempt to stop the individual from reporting the initial abuse.
What Is the Process of Reporting Sexual Harassment at Work?
Understanding the process of reporting sexual abuse at work can help an individual feel empowered to advance their case despite any retaliatory efforts:
- Document the harassment. The first step is to document your experiences as much as you can. Write down every instance of when the abuse occurred, including the date, time, location, and exactly what happened. If there are any tangible pieces of evidence that can prove the individual engaged in the behavior, like an inappropriate email or photo, be sure to keep that safe as well.
- Report to a supervisor or human resources. If you feel comfortable reporting your experience with your boss, go for it. If they do not appear responsive to the matter, or in cases where they may be the alleged abuser, go directly to human resources. You’ll want to present any evidence for the claims you are making.
If you are unsatisfied with how your supervisor or HR is handling the accusation, it may be time to seek help outside of the organization.
- Consult an attorney. It’s important to have a legal professional who does not have any ties to your business to investigate the situation through their own lens. Even if your employer is seemingly agreeable and addressing the issue, an attorney can validate that none of your rights are being discreetly violated in the process.
What Qualities Make a Strong Sexual Harassment Lawyer?
When you need a sexual harassment lawyer, look for these qualities:
- Direct experience. One of the most compelling reasons to hire an attorney is because they likely have already won similar cases in the past. When consulting with a prospective attorney, ask about their track record and if your case strikes them as similar to another they have dealt with. This immediately gives you an advantage, as the most effective practices learned from previous cases can be applied to your own.
- Strong investigative skills. Lawyers are skilled at collecting evidence legally to use and make their point. They understand how the consolidation of little instances here and there can all come together to support the larger accusation that an unjust act of sexual harassment has occurred at their client’s workplace.
- Proactive communication. Employment law attorneys are professional communicators. They can articulate their client’s position clearly and persuasively, and this is key to bringing in others to share your observations of exactly what happened.
They also are strong at keeping an open line of communication with their clients, ensuring full transparency throughout the process and that their client is never left wondering what is going on in their case.
- Compassion. A good lawyer has compassion for their clients. They don’t let their emotions get in the way of sound judgment. Rather, they use it as a driver to collect facts and make sure everyone is held accountable for any unjust behavior. Having someone like this on your team can make a difference in how efficiently your case is handled.
Contact the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton Today
If you believe you are facing sexual harassment in a hostile work environment and need legal assistance, contact the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton today. For years, we have been driven to hold sexual harassers accountable for their unjust behaviors and would be honored to help bring some peace and compensation for the experiences you have endured.