Many people who experience sexual harassment in the workplace face conflicting pressures that can make it difficult to know how to respond. These victims may feel as though they cannot spend the time, energy and resources necessary to pursue legal action, or may worry that the ultimate outcome of a sexual harassment lawsuit may not justify the emotional and financial impact it may bring.
For many victims, these fears are well founded, particularly if they work in an industry that does not value respectful treatment in the workplace. If you believe that your experience may justify a lawsuit, it is important to build a strong legal strategy before you move forward. Doing so helps ensure that your rights remain protected throughout the process. It will also give you the tools to make the most of this opportunity to bring about much needed change in your work environment.
First steps to justice
The law allows significant compensation for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, although there are some steps you must take before filing a lawsuit against an employer. First, it is important to review the employer's internal policies on responding to sexual harassment claims.
If the employer already has an internal process for addressing sexual harassment, it is wise to start by reporting violations to the proper party inside the organization. While this may seem like a frustrating delay of justice, it is an important part of establishing that you followed the proper procedures when requesting a "right to sue" letter from the appropriate oversight agency. In most cases, this is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the agency approves your claim, then you may move forward with a civil suit.
Remedies to compensate a victim
Should you pursue a sexual harassment suit and succeed, you may receive several kinds of compensation, while your employer must comply with some oversight guidelines. Victims who lose their job in connection with reporting harassment may reclaim their position with the employer, including back pay for income lost by unemployment or missed promotions. This back pay is typically three times the actual lost amount. Likewise, if a victim loses fringe benefits as a part of the experience, the court may order these to be compensated.
In addition, a court may award a victim financial compensation for emotional distress, as well as covering legal fees.
At the same time, the employer must also commit to acceptable sexual harassment policies and training for employees to discourage further bad behavior.
If you believe that your sexual harassment experience may justify a lawsuit, be sure to prepare your case carefully using excellent legal resources and guidance. This strengthens your chances of succeeding and gives you the tools to create a safer, more just workplace for all.