Sexual harassment involves the use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones, including unwelcomed and inappropriate advances. Sexual harassment is a severe problem. The EEOC received a total of 98,411 claims alleging harassment between 2018 and 2021, with 27,291 of those claims being alleging sexual harassment. These numbers reflect an increase in sexual harassment charges, influenced by the #MeToo movement, but show the scope of the issue, since there are many incidents of sexual harassment that go unreported, due to fear or other factors.
Not all victims of sexual harassment speak up. The unwelcomed sexual advances may come from a supervisor. A victim might be pressured to engage in unwanted sexual relations or else have their job conditions change. Many fear retaliation if they do say something and never file a formal complaint. Others who do file a complaint might have the employer do absolutely nothing, allowing the misconduct to continue and even make the situation worse for the victim.
Every place of employment should have a procedure for reporting sexual harassment. Employers also have a responsibility to take every claim and allegation seriously. That means conducting an investigation and addressing the issue.
However, this doesn’t always happen. If you have reported sexual harassment and nothing has been done, you may have relief.
Below are ways to ensure that your claim of sexual harassment is appropriately considered and what to do when it’s not.
Employers in California must provide a safe work environment, free from various forms of harassment and discrimination. This includes adhering to federal law and California state laws, both of which prohibit quid pro quo sexual harassment and other forms of workplace discrimination. This includes gender-based comments, inappropriate touching, grabbing, pinching, and making sexually suggestive or inappropriate comments and jokes.
If you have experienced sexual discrimination and your employer says and does nothing, tells you to let it go, or says let’s wait and see, they have failed to respond appropriately. In these situations, the employer may be liable. It’s a best practice to keep as much supporting evidence and documentation as possible. Such proof includes emails or other documentation of proof that you reported the claim to your employer.
When an employer fails to respond to a claim of sexual harassment, you have grounds to file a formal complaint with EEOC.
The EEOC is a federal agency tasked with handling allegations of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. They also address civil rights violations.
This complaint can be filed in person, by appointment, or through the mail. Understanding the process is vital to ensure that you don’t miss deadlines, fill out the appropriate forms, and attach relevant evidence. The EEOC has employees you can speak with to help navigate the process.
Evidence can include emails and documented discussions. For example, after you had a conversation with a supervisor who ignored the complaint, you can write down the effects of that conversation with the date and time it took place. Text messages, memos, witness statements, digital images, and recordings will also be helpful.
An employer must immediately act on a complaint about sexual harassment. They must investigate the claim by speaking with any involved parties; following protocols to ensure a safe work environment. This includes stopping the harassment immediately.
At times, an employer may make mistakes in the way they handle the investigation. They can wait too long to investigate the claim or they can conduct an unfair investigation.
An unfair investigation can include many factors. The employer can avoid speaking to a single witness and find the claim unfounded. They can try to cover up for the person who harassed or discriminated against you.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace and filed a complaint with your employer that was ignored, you have legal remedies. The law puts the burden on the victim to provide evidence and our experienced sexual harassment attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak can help. You can schedule a consultation with us at 415-693-0300 or online.