Our ability to feel safe in our workplaces should be a given. Unfortunately, many employees find themselves victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. These situations affect employee productivity, mental and physical health and can have legal consequences for both the harasser and the employer. If you are being subjected to unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate comments or harassment based on your gender, you may be eligible to bring a sexual harassment claim. At The Law Offices of Schurmer & Wood we regularly represent victims of sexual harassment and are here to help you stop the harassment and obtain the compensation you deserve.
The term “sexual harassment” often gets tossed around lightly, but sexual harassment should be taken seriously. Taking sexual harassment seriously often starts with understanding what is and what is not sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment isn’t a single inappropriate comment from a co-worker at the office holiday party or a creepy glance from a customer. Sexual harassment typically involves unwelcome sexual advances, which can be either verbal or physical. This behavior can sometimes be overt and obvious, such as unwelcome touching and obscene remarks or suggestions, or even more subtle behavior like inappropriate glaring or staring. Sexual harassment may also be disparaging or offensive comments about a person’s sex. The conduct does not have to occur between opposite genders to be sexual harassment.
You may be surprised to learn that the first advance, inappropriate comment or unwanted touch is not considered illegal sexual harassment. While the conduct may be actionable as either assault and/or battery, it does not become sexual harassment unless:
In employment situations it is enough to simply ask the harasser to stop because walking away from a job poses a very specific hardship, the loss of one’s income. Working with an experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you determine whether or not your co-worker’s conduct is illegal and what your options are to remove yourself from the situation.
Many times this behavior creates a hostile work environment that interferes with a person’s ability to work effectively. The work atmosphere can become intimidating, hostile or offensive. Stopping the conduct before it happens is the employer’s responsibility. In fact, the state of California requires employers to take necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment in the work environment. This includes:
Employers are also responsible for ensuring the necessary intervention occurs once a claim has been made or once the behavior was—or should have been—discovered.
Failing to respond to a report of sexual harassment or failing to discover harassment can expose an employer to civil liability. It may also expose the employer to administrative action under state or federal law.
Damages or financial compensation in sexual harassment cases come in a number of different forms. Victims may be entitled to compensatory damages including:
Pain and suffering —often called general damages—are typically a large component of the ultimate settlement or verdict. In certain cases where the conduct is particularly egregious and can be shown to be outrageous or malicious, clients may be entitled to punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the offender. In these situations a victim may even be able to recover the cost of attorney’s fees.
The time limits or statute of limitations that applies to sexual harassment claims is often different than other types of civil cases. As a result, it is important to seek legal counsel at the first opportunity.
The Law Offices of Schurmer & Wood has the necessary experience and knowledge to obtain the best results for our clients in these types of cases. We regularly work with victims of both genders and can help you understand your rights. We offer free, no obligation consultations to clients who may be considering a sexual harassment claim and handle these cases on a contingency fee basis. That means we do not receive payment for our services until we reach a successful verdict or settlement on your behalf. We encourage you to pick up the phone or send us an email to discuss your case and see how we can help you stop the harassment and enjoy your workplace again.