Maybe your boss said some very inappropriate things to you during your most recent performance review. They may have implied or outright stated that they expected sexual favors if you wanted a raise or a promotion. Perhaps you recently transferred to a new department and find the constant jokes and lewd gestures of the existing team members to be quite a fence.
When people make you feel uncomfortable and mistreated in the workplace, you may wonder if their actions technically constitute sexual harassment and if you have the right to file a lawsuit. How do you evaluate your work circumstances to see if you have a claim?
Does the behavior constitute a form of sexual harassment?
You can classify most sexual harassment in one of two categories. Inappropriate jokes, flirting or aggressive behavior by coworkers could create a hostile work environment. On the other hand, requests for sexual favors or dates in return for career benefits are quid pro quo sexual harassment.
If the behavior you experience at work falls into either of these categories, it may meet the basic criteria necessary for you to bring a claim against your employer.
Did you report the mistreatment you’ve endured?
Often, to bring a sexual harassment claim against a company, an employee will first have to demonstrate that they alerted the company to their experience and the business did not respond appropriately.
For example, if you reported harassment on the job and the company punished you for speaking up or did not take any action at all regarding your complaints, you may have a strong claim that the company contributed to the harassment by refusing to investigate it or discipline the people involved.
On the other hand, if the person you should report the harassment to played a role in your mistreatment, you may not have felt like you could speak up. If the company did not give you a way to report harassment without endangering your career or involving someone actively mistreating you, you may have a claim in that situation as well.
Exploring whether your work circumstances meet the standard for a sexual harassment claim can help you push back against inappropriate behavior for yourself and others who will work at the company in the future.