Sexual harassment can come in many forms from any individual with whom you work, whether they are your manager, your officemate or even a client. Your employer has an obligation to create a safe work environment, not contribute to a hostile work environment.
Sadly, many people who come forward to report sexual harassment while at work find that they are the ones who wind up disciplined or fired, not those doing the harassing. An employment law attorney is most suited to determine whether you may have an actionable harassment claim based on your employer’s actions. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself as you prepare to meet with a lawyer.
Did you follow company policy when reporting the harassment?
The larger the company you work for, the more likely it is that they have a written harassment policy. The harassment policy should include reporting procedures, such as whom you should contact. It may also have alternative reporting systems in case the person to whom you report is part of the problem.
Provided that you followed company policy, or if you have documentation that shows that following the policy was not possible because of the position the person harassing you held, that could strengthen any claim you may later need to take.
Did the company investigate?
Once you made a report, did the company investigate? Did they review your evidence, talk to other witnesses and determine if your claim was valid? If they did investigate, was the outcome reasonable based on the evidence they collected. Or, did they simply complete an investigation, rule against you and then find a way to punish you?
All too often, the people who engage in abusive or inappropriate behavior do so because they know they can likely get away with it. Whether the person is the highest-ranking sales professional or the CEO, they have no right to use their position to abuse others or attempt to coerce them into compromising situations.
Did your employer penalize you for reporting the harassment?
Retaliation by your employer is illegal per federal law. Common forms of retaliation include:
- Pay cuts
- Reduction in hours or projects
- Poor performance reviews
These and other forms of penalties may give rise to a wrongful termination action. This is a separate claim from a sexual harassment action but may also strengthen that case.