Austin Sexual Harassment Attorney
Laws Protecting Workers From Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination and is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code. These laws protecting employees from sexual harassment apply to companies with 15 or more employees.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the definition of sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interfered with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. As per the definition, sexual harassment offenses can fall into one of two categories. The first is known as quid pro quo. Under this form, an individual’s advancement within the company, benefits, or job itself is threatened unless he or she submits to the harassment. The offensive conduct is directly tied to a person’s terms of employment and affects employment decisions regarding him or her. If quid pro quo does not exist, victims can suffer sexual harassment in the form of a hostile working environment. This occurs when an employer engages in inappropriate verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature and thus creates an intimidating and offensive work setting. To prove charges of sexual harassment, plaintiffs must show that an incident or pattern of abuse occurred, the behavior was unwanted, they were harmed by the conduct, and that the company had reason to know about the harassing events and failed to take corrective action.
The requirement for employer knowledge makes reporting the abuse a critical step. Employees are afforded few rights and may be prevented from recovering remedies should they fail to submit a claim of sexual harassment to their employer. Reporting it as per company policy allows employers the opportunity to look into and correct the situation if they can. Employees may choose not to report sexual harassment out of fear for their job. To protect employees, under sexual harassment law, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who reports incidents that he or she in believes in good faith to be sexual harassment.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment can occur in many forms including the following:
- Your employer makes unwelcome comments such as sexual advances or invitations, remarks about a person’s body or clothes, sexually oriented jokes, and other sexually explicit language
- Your employer exposes you to unwelcome visuals such as sexually oriented photos, emails, drawings, posters, and other images
- Your employer initiates physical contact such as sexual assault, unwelcome massaging or touching, simulated sex acts and other unwanted conduct
- Your employer demands sexual favors as a requirement for continued employment
Employee Remedies for Sexual Harassment by an Employer
In a lawsuit for sexual harassment, an employee may be able to recover:
- Lost wages and benefits to the time of trial
- Compensatory damages
- Punitive damages
- Attorney’s fees
- Expert witness fees
- Costs of court
Prior to filing a lawsuit, an employee must file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). These agencies enforce the laws protecting employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
What to do if your Employer Sexually Harasses You
Contact an attorney immediately, and preferably an attorney who routinely represents employees in employment litigation. If you are not able to contact an attorney, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division. To preserve your rights under the law for sexual harassment discrimination, you must act quickly and typically must follow certain procedural steps, such as filing a charge of discrimination with either the EEOC or TWC. Lastly, take thorough notes regarding everything discriminatory that is being said or done to you and keep all records related to your employment. These notes and records may prove invaluable in a later lawsuit.
Additional Resources for Learning About Sexual Harassment
If you feel that you have experienced sexual harassment and wish to speak to a Texas sexual harassment lawyer at the Cook Law Firm, please submit a case review form.