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Protecting Employees’ Rights in the Workplace
When people think of sexual harassment in the workplace, images of male executives making passes at their female co-workers often come to mind. Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years to promote fairness and equality in the workplace, the truth is, sexual harassment is still a rampant problem in the contemporary work environment.
Despite numerous advances in equality in the workplace, sexual harassment remains a continuing issue in many workplaces. The United States Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) reported that there were 13,055 receipts relating to sex-based harassment allegations in fiscal year 2018, the most of any year dating back to 2010.
At Higgins Law Firm, PLLC, we fight for the victims of sexual harassment by working tirelessly to hold employers responsible for misconduct.
We do this by using our skill and experience to gather evidence and testimony to build a strong case. To learn more about our discreet and effective methods, call us at 515-619-9148 for a free consultation with an experienced West Des Moines Sexual Harassment Lawyer or contact us.
Understanding Sexual Harassment Laws
Whether you work in a downtown office or on the line for a manufacturer, the laws governing sexual harassment are the same. The law defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome” conduct that an employee is subjected to “because of the employee’s sex.” Essentially, sexual or gender harassment is verbal or physical conduct by an employer, co-worker or even a client/customer that is sex-based and negatively affects an employee’s working environment. To be illegal the conduct must amount to more than simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are not very serious.
Although sexual harassment and gender discrimination can take innumerable forms, a few common examples include the following:
- Sexual advances — More than just unwanted flirtation, sexual advances can be physical, verbal and written, such as comments made via email or social media.
- Requests for sexual favors — Sometimes referred to as quid pro quo, these instances involve a co-worker or even a supervisor requesting sexual favors in return for special treatment, advancement or compensation.
- Gender-based comments — These may include exposure to comments that disparage women, including slurs, derogatory comments made toward pregnant women, negative stereotyping and written or graphic material that depicts women in a negative light. Not limited to women, these harmful actions may be directed toward men or a person’s sexual orientation.
- Sexually charged workplace — A working environment may feel hostile if sexually offensive conduct or language is common and is not addressed or condoned by management.
Most of the behaviors listed above constitute a hostile work environment form of sexual harassment. The other kind of sexual harassment is quid pro quo sexual harassment, which is also known as “this for that.”
Employees may be victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment when a boss or person in position of power offers some kind of benefit in exchange for sexual favors. Threatening to fire an employee for not engaging in sexual behavior is also quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Building Your Case
Your lawyer will be able to help you with your claim by making sure you are taken seriously. Most employers are fearful of seeming dismissive of these allegations, so they often take the charges quite seriously.
The first thing an attorney can do is confirm that you were the victim of sexual harassment, which can be an overwhelming concern for certain people. The lawyer can then commence an independent investigation into your incident, preserving all important evidence.
The attorney will also be able to help ensure that you are not the victim of any kind of retaliation. A lawyer will also be able to file your charges with the EEOC / Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) and assist you at any hearings or other court appearances.
An attorney will also be able to recommend all the steps you should be taking during your case. You should always be documenting every instance of sexual harassment.
What Type of Compensation Could I Get for a Sexual Harassment Claim?
When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, an employer has an obligation to get the victim’s story in their own words. They should also inform the offender that a charge has been filed and retaliation will not be accepted.
Even when an employer seems to be taking a claim seriously, the entire experience can still leave people feeling tremendously uneasy. Many people will begin to wonder if they accurately conveyed what happened, second-guessing themselves repeatedly and possibly affecting the person’s ability to focus on work.
The monetary award that a person receives in a sexual harassment case will depend on how the case is resolved. Many cases end in settlements because insurance companies deem settling a case to be less costly than going to trial.
A settlement is agreed to when a victim and her lawyer are convinced that the amount will satisfactorily cover all of the victim’s damages. When a case goes to court, then a person could be awarded various kinds of damages.
Depending on the specifics of your case, you could be entitled to back pay if your sexual harassment resulted in you being terminated or being denied advancement opportunities including a pay raise.
Empowering Clients to Overcome Intimidation
Although the circumstances of each case vary, it’s common for victims of sexual harassment to feel trapped and without options when trying to bring attention to sexual misconduct. If a manager or supervisor is the one making advances, it can be more difficult than if another co-worker was responsible.
As your attorney, we will listen to your story and offer clear, straightforward advice on how to proceed, all while guiding you throughout the legal process until your case is resolved. Schedule a free, confidential initial consultation by calling our Des Moines, Iowa, law office at 515-619-9148 or by completing our online contact form.