You Are NOT Alone. Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Be A Painful, Heartbreaking, And Challenging Situation To Face — But A Vancouver Sexual Harassment Lawyer Will Fight For You.
The topic of sexual harassment has become a front and center issue over recent years thanks to high-profile criminal trials and societal initiatives like the #MeToo movement, which has led to international media coverage. As the true scale of sexual harassment issues continues to unfold, it’s no surprise to see more and more employees speaking out about their experiences in the workplace.
This type of behavior can present itself in a wide range of circumstances. The harassment can come from a supervisor, a co-worker, or even an individual from outside the organization, like a customer or a vendor. From inappropriate jokes to unwanted touching or promises of a promotion in exchange for sexual favors — it’s against the law.
Do you feel uncomfortable in the workplace because of sexual harassment? No matter how much you love your job, you should NOT have to deal with that. You have the right to a safe workplace.
If you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, don’t suffer in silence. We understand the impacts that a toxic environment can have on its workers. Your physical health and mental well-being are our #1 priority — trust our Vancouver sexual harassment lawyer to fight for your right to a SAFE workplace. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation.
There can sometimes be a fine line between what’s seen as either appropriate or inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Sometimes a joke or comment can come across as harmless to one employee, while another employee finds it offensive or degrading.
Sexual harassment is typically the result of repeated unwelcome behaviors, but isolated incidents could be categorized as sexual harassment depending on the severity of the unwelcome conduct. Sexual harassment does NOT always involve overtly sexual acts or propositions. Physical or verbal conduct used to tease, intimidate, or bully employees (including conduct directed at gender identity or sexual orientation) can also be considered sexual harassment even if the sexual nature of the conduct is not explicit.
Many state and federal anti-discrimination laws frequently overlap with sexual harassment claims. Race, religion, age, disability — it can be challenging to determine the best way to defend your rights. It’s important to seek appropriate legal counsel from a firm experienced in handling all aspects of employee rights, including workplace discrimination.
Employers have a legal duty to prevent sexual harassment. There is NO requirement that employees file a complaint with their employers about it. Employers in Washington have a duty to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring regardless of whether an employee complains. It’s the employer’s responsibility to have appropriate measures in place to deter sexual harassment. Any employer who fails to take these steps violates Washington and federal law.
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According to Washington Administrative Code 132A-350-015, there are two main forms of sexual harassment that are most commonly seen in the workplace: Quid pro quo (“something for something”) harassment and hostile work environments.
It’s also important to note that gender is irrelevant to sexual harassment — whether the sexual harasser is male, female, or nonbinary, or the victim is male, female, or nonbinary is irrelevant. The behavior determines what constitutes sexual harassment. Moreover, sexual desire or attraction is not required for behavior to constitute sexual harassment. The behavior determines sexual harassment, not the intention of the harasser.
The Latin term directly translates to “something for something.” When a proposition is made for an employee to fulfill or consent to sexual requests or advances in exchange for some sort of employment benefit or opportunity, this is called quid pro quo. For example, a supervisor tells an employee that the employee will get a promotion if they were to go on a date with the supervisor, or if they threaten the stability of an employee’s job if they do not go out with them.
When a work environment becomes so toxic — as a result of sexual-related harassment — that it begins to have detrimental impacts on its employee’s job performance, it’s referred to as hostile work environment sexual harassment.
In court, some factors will be used to determine if there is legitimate hostility in the workplace:
Generally, sexual comments are considered one of the verbal forms of sexual harassment. This involves behaviors like joking or making crude comments about an employee’s physical attributes, spreading rumors about their sex life, or sharing private information. These unwanted comments can often be considered sexual harassment.
Unwanted advances involve propositions in the workplace. Advances could be verbal, written, or over a text message. Although it’s not uncommon for a coworker to ask another out on a date, it must be done respectfully. Unwanted advances or negative consequences for declining an advance may give rise to a valid sexual harassment claim.
Inappropriate physical touching is one of the most indicative signs of sexual harassment. Employees that experience inappropriate touching may consider filing a police report, and may also have a civil claim for sexual assault. The Malk Law Firm frequently brings claims for assault along with sexual harassment.
Sexist comments are derogatory remarks directed towards a specific individual or group of individuals. The most common example, being derogatory comments made against women in the workplace. This includes insults, jokes, slurs, or any other type of verbal harassment. Sexual harassment claims are taken very seriously in Washington, comments alone are often enough to give rise to a claim.
Under Washington state law, sexual harassment includes but is not limited to the deliberate, repeated sharing of private information, verbal or physical conduct, or making inappropriate gestures, comments, and requests.
There may be sexual harassment present is you’ve witnessed or experienced:
Both victims of sexual harassment and the harassers can be male or female. They can be supervisors, coworkers, vendors, clients, or anyone who interacts within the work environment.
You can never have too much documentation. As the incidents happen, take down as many notes about the situation as you’re able to. This will be a great help to any lawyer that works on your case. Record specific dates and times, what behaviors you witnessed, what other people were around, and how you reacted. Keep this information in a safe place outside of your office so that you can access it if you need it. Begin reviewing your workplace policies and procedures to ensure proper protocol is followed when making a claim.
People frequently fear retaliation from their employers. Why? Because it happens often. If you feel comfortable doing so, report your claim in writing – keep a copy of it (email works) – to your superiors or an HR department. Stating your claim places the onus on the management team to conduct an investigation and produce a solution that keeps the employee and other employees safe from future sexual harassment.
You don’t have to handle your claim alone. No matter what stage of the process you are in, an experienced Vancouver sexual harassment lawyer will help ensure your employee rights are protected, and your harasser is held responsible. Start building your claim with a free consultation.
Just like sexual assault cases, sexual harassment can be very traumatizing for victims. It’s important to have friends or family outside of the workplace that you can confide in. Establishing a group of trusted people, a support system, can really help you cope with your experiences… whether you choose to pursue legal action or not.
Washington employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment, which includes preventing sexual harassment even where the harasser is not an employee.
Once an employer is notified of sexual harassment, it must take adequate remedial measures. The measures need to include immediate corrective action that is reasonably calculated to (1) end the current harassment and (2) deter future harassment.
If your employer did not take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, we may be able to help. Please contact us for a free consultation.
If you believe you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, there are a number of different ways you can file a claim, depending on the seriousness of harassment:
No matter what stage of the process you are in, a Vancouver sexual harassment lawyer can guide you through the process of filing a complaint.
Employers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe. They can be held directly responsible for the behaviors and actions of the managers and supervisors they employ, as well as other employees in some circumstances. Merely being aware of inappropriate conduct and failing to take adequate measures to resolve the issue can prompt a valid complaint.
If you’re a past or present employee and are thinking about filing a sexual harassment claim, speak with a Vancouver sexual harassment lawyer to understand all of your options. Your lawyer will focus on a range of details to determine how to best handle the case.
Your attorney will try to determine EXACTLY what happened during the alleged harassment. How you responded— If you made it clear that the behavior was unacceptable or if you participated in the behavior at some point. Your attorney will also gauge just how offensive the conduct was and if any reasonable person would have been equally offended given the same circumstances.
Employees who encounter sexual harassment in the workplace often suffer with it for long periods over fears of their employer retaliating against them (firing, demoting, cutting hours). Anytime there is harassment (especially of a sexual nature), the victim incurs some sort of emotional loss — grief, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment (life or workplace), isolation, and emotional distress. It can be tough to handle sexual harassment alone in an environment that feels like it’s against you.
Each altercation is going to be handled uniquely depending on WHO committed the offense. If the harassment was by a co-worker or a customer, the employer is typically only responsible if they knew or should have known about the behavior and failed to take preventative and corrective actions. A lawyer can determine whether the harasser can be considered a supervisor for purposes of a sexual harassment claim, or whether the employer can be held liable for the sexual harassment by a non-supervisor.
It’s necessary to determine precisely how the conduct was reported. Most organizations have policies and procedures documented that outline how employees should handle these types of harassment. Your lawyer will ask for any sort of documentation you may have to support your claim (e-mails, text messages, notes, witnesses). Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t report the conduct.
A few types of damages a victim can seek to recover in a sexual harassment claim are emotional damages, economic damages, and punitive damages. Emotional damages are common due to the nature of the harassment. As a result of excessive emotional stress, the victim’s mental well-being can be strongly impacted. Economic damages are often a result of missed work and lost income. Employees may begin to call in sick more frequently to avoid stress in the workplace or even just quit. Punitive damages are pursued solely to “punish” the employer for their negligence and hopefully push them to handle sexual harassment in the workplace more seriously.
If you’re an employee or ex-employee and you believe you’ve been facing some kind of harassment, it’s important to find a lawyer with specific expertise in handling employee rights legal matters. They can help distinguish between an employer’s “bad” but lawful behavior, and an employer’s unlawful behavior to determine if your case is worth fighting.
Sometimes you may just need an honest professional to tell you, “I believe it’s unfair, but not technically unlawful,” sparing you and your employer from unnecessary litigation. A skilled Vancouver sexual harassment lawyer should ask questions like:
This is just the tip of the iceberg. A good lawyer will take the time to carefully review each aspect of your case to help develop the best strategy for moving forward.
If you’re handling a workplace harassment issue, you’ll need a lawyer that specializes in protecting the rights of employees in the workplace. A skilled employee rights lawyer will help determine if you have a valid claim against your employer and establish the best strategy for moving forward with your claim.
Absolutely. Employers have a responsibility to ensure safe working environments for their employees. If you feel that you have a sexual harassment claim: (1) review your companies policies and procedures to establish how to best report the claim. (2) Report the harassment to a supervisor or HR if you feel comfortable doing so. (3) Now that you’ve brought the harassment to their attention, it is their responsibility to do everything, within reason, to diffuse the situation and prevent future harassment.
Harassment in the workplace can be challenging to prove. You’ve likely heard of the term “he said, she said” to describe conflicting claims being made without proper witnesses. If you believe that harassment is taking place, begin to document as much as possible. If the conduct is over email or text messages, keep those in a safe place. If these interactions are in-person, keep a journal of everything that happens between you and the harasser.
After receiving a right-to-sue notice, you can pursue a lawsuit against your former employee. As per the Washington code RCW 49.60, you have up to 3 years from the time of the sexual harassment to file a lawsuit.
After experiencing any type of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s difficult to know where to turn, to know who you can trust. At the Malk Law Firm, we have successfully represented employees against large and small companies (all over California and Washington) in various labor and employment-related lawsuits.
Trust our team to fight for your rights in the workplace. Our Vancouver sexual harassment lawyer is available for a free consultation to discuss your options. Please reach out today to tell us about your case.