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How Do I Prove Sexual Harassment at Work?

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How Do I Prove Sexual Harassment at Work?

Sexual harassment is despicable, demeaning behavior with no place in any job, and it must be taken seriously in order to be eliminated as a threat to employees. Sadly, employers do not always see it that way and often times supervisors abuse their authority and perpetrate these types of acts themselves, which makes exposing it all the more difficult for the abused.

Fortunately, there are measures victims of workplace sexual harassment can take to prove the activity and make their place of employment a safer environment. Victims should not need to feel helpless in these situations and instead, know they can empower themselves to make the harassment end.

Documenting sexual harassment

Victims should make written documentation of the harassment they experience at work. Try to make the notes as soon as possible so the information cannot be misconstrued as the result of a selective memory. Records of sexual harassment should include:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Place
  • Names of those who may have witnessed the harassment
  • What exactly happened

The chances are that if proper details are collected and reported, the perpetrator may inadvertently make some kind of statement in an investigation corroborating the events. Barring that, documentation shows the victim is serious about their claim and is trying their best to ensure all the facts come out.

Know your company’s sexual harassment policy

It is almost always a good idea to work within your company’s guidelines for reporting sexual harassment. By working within the system, the victim can demonstrate a good faith attempt at resolving sexual harassment claims the right way. Almost all employers have a procedure for reporting this type of unacceptable behavior and should take the claim seriously.

If your supervisor is the one making the unwanted advances or inappropriate claims, the behavior should be reported to their supervisor. Often times, companies have independent HR departments to investigate these claims and will remain impartial regardless of the perpetrator’s job title.

Chicago sexual harassment lawyers

If you have done your best to report and record the workplace sexual harassment affecting your life, you may be able to file civil lawsuits and report claims to state employment authorities. In these situations, plaintiffs should strongly consider retaining an experienced Chicago sexual harassment lawyer to ensure their claim is properly prosecuted and taken seriously. Contact or call 312.332.6733 our office for a consultation about your case. With over 25 years of experience, the Chicago employment attorneys of Goldman & Ehrlich understand what it takes to get clients the justice they deserve.

 

Recognizing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Employees have basic workplace right to work in a safe place without fear of danger, violence, discrimination, or harassment. We all hope no one would have to deal with these issues, but it does still happen.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can be an ambiguous and hard to recognize due to its often subtle conduct. The Supreme Court has even made it clear that it depends on the frequency and severity of the conduct as well as whether the victim feels physically threatened, humiliated, or job performance is affected. If you are unsure if sexual harassment has taken place here is a list of how to recognize if there is sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Comments and remarks of sexual nature referring to a person’s physical appearance
  • Inappropriate touching in a sexually provocative manner
  • Making requests (usually by a supervisor) for sex or dates
  • Forwarding pictures that are sexually graphic in nature. These can be personal or online images
  • Forwarding literature that is sexual explicit or provocative in nature

What to do

If you have been the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are remedies you can take to regain a sense of safety and peace in your workplace. You can review your company policy (usually in your employee handbook) on sexual harassment and follow your company guidelines regarding procedures. This often includes filing a formal complaint with your employer. If your company is not taking appropriate actions to remedy the situation then you can hire an attorney to bring a complaint against the offender, and possibly your company for not acting appropriately.

If you are charged with sexual harassment and do not feel that you acted inappropriately, our offices also defend complaints. We are experienced in discrimination law in Chicago, and will investigate every case to determine if the law was violated and represent our clients aggressively in court.

Contact our Chicago Sexual Harassment Attorneys

Whatever side of the sexual harassment claim you are on, our attorneys can help. With more than 25 years in discrimination law, Goldman & Ehrlich will get to the bottom of each claim and ensure that our clients are protected. Call us at 312.332.6733 today or contact our Chicago office online.

Religious and Personal Conviction Does Not Justify Harassment

In August 2015, Judge Weinstein of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, supported a ruling against UPS which was based on claims of harassment and discrimination of a lesbian employee by a manager.

The judge’s ruling include the statement: “[As] the nation’s understanding and acceptance of sexual orientation evolve, so does the law’s definition of appropriate behavior in the workplace…the jury found improper under the law repeated ‘advice’ from plaintiff’s supervisor that her sexual orientation as a lesbian was evil and need to be changed in accordance with religious dictates. Appeals to the bible, or theology generally, cannot justify management’s condoning the harassing of a lesbian in the workplace. Defendant’s central administration failed to protect plaintiff from such abuse.”

According to the recent court decision, the plaintiff, a woman named Tameeka Roberts, was commissioned to work under “Bob W”, her manager. Over the next few years, Bob admonished Ms. Roberts that the Bible prohibited her type of lifestyle and repeatedly told her she was evil. He also reportedly told her that she was “going to hell” and that her behavior was unnatural. After Ms. Roberts had made many complaints to her union, HR and other UPS managers, she was finally informed that Bob’s behavior was not considered a violation of UPS harassment code. This decision was confirmed in court by several UPS executives. Eventually, Ms. Roberts claimed that Bob became angry with her for seeking help and retaliated by changing her time card and occasionally hitting her with packages. Tameeka Roberts eventually quit her job and claimed constructive damage.

The District Court, during its affirmation of the jury’s verdict, explained in great detail, the history of LGBT legal rights and protections and explored the debate in the law concerning whether Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Judge Weinstein noted that Ms. Robert’s allegations of “discriminatory comments about plaintiff’s sexual orientation made over a number of years, show adverse differential treatment. So too do the significant failures of supervisors to protect plaintiff against discrimination.”

There are several lessons employers can glean from this case. You cannot ignore claims presented to you about supervisors making negative or offensive comments to lesbian, gay or transgender employees. Additionally, you should ensure that every member on the Human Resource staff understands that importance of your discrimination and harassment policies. Remember, as society changes, the workplace must change as well. Don’t let your workplace fall behind the times. Taking the time to ensure that LGBT harassment doesn’t occur will pay itself off in the long run.

If you have questions about discriminatory practices in your workplace, Goldman & Ehrlich has answers for both workers and employers. Contact us online or call us at (312)332-6733. 

When Office Jokes Cross the Line

Office workplaces bring individuals together, forming friendships and bonds that often last for years. However, having the ability to distinguish between friendly and casual office conversation and jokes that are crossing the line is important to understand office etiquette at all times regardless of your position. Having a clear understanding of how to properly communicate in your office workplace is a way to avoid potential issues and conflicts with any colleagues you are working with in your building.

Racial Jokes and Comments

Overhearing racial jokes and comments is one form of harassment that should not be tolerated within the workplace. Whether the individual telling the joke is of the minority they are referring to it is likely they are offending another. Keeping racial jokes and comments to yourself is imperative when you are working together with others regardless of how much of a sense of humor those in your work group have with one another.

Sexual Harassment 

Sexual harassment occurs in many offices around the world for both men and women. When jokes begin crossing the line they often include sexual innuendos or even inappropriate touching. Sexual jokes and harassment are not permitted in professional workplaces and should be reported immediately to higher-ups and individuals who are working in human resources. Be sure to document times and dates of any harassment you have dealt with along with details of the assault. If you know someone in the workplace who is being sexually harassed it is essential to inform them of their rights while taking a stand with them. Ridding sexual harassment in the workplace is not always simple, especially when it is a boss or individual in charge committing the acts, which is why it is important to consider legal counsel.

Personal and Degrading Humor

Singling out an individual in the workplace to embarrass or harass them is never acceptable in an office workplace. When an individual is being singled out and harassed in front of others it is a clear violation of ethics in the workplace and is also known as bullying.

The more you know about inappropriate office jokes or commentary the easier it is to determine the right steps to take in order to keep your position without drawing too much attention to yourself professionally. Whether you have been harassed or if you witness harassment on the job it is important to know how you are protected and when to seek legal counsel if an issue arises.

Have you or a loved one been a victim of harassment? Call 312.332.6733 or contact us online today to speak with one of our dedicated attorneys.

My company does not have a rule about inter-office dating, but I was fired for dating a co-worker (he wasn’t fired)

To avoid sexual harassment issues and misunderstandings among employees, more companies are developing policies for interoffice dating. A well-written statement helps to clarify boundaries and expectations on what is considered to be acceptable behavior between colleagues within the same organization.

What if my company has no policy?

In the absence of this type of policy, or if it has not been widely distributed or explained, employees are likely to be uncertain about whether they are allowed to date coworkers. In such situations, it is usually a good idea to check with a supervisor or the personnel department. If employees assume that a relationship is acceptable and do not inquire about its appropriateness, they may end up breaching de facto protocol even if no written policy exists.

However, this does not mean that any rules have been broken, especially if pertinent rules do not exist or are not generally understood by all employees. If an employee knew that dating was unacceptable but continued to see a coworker anyway, that might constitute a breach of verbal policy. Typically, an employee’s unacceptable conduct should be discussed with a supervisor to clarify the problem. If the employee subsequently and knowingly continues to violate company standards or policies, disciplinary action may follow.

In the situation cited here, an employee explains that the office has no rule against interoffice dating. Therefore, when it was discovered that two coworkers were indeed in a social or dating relationship, one was fired, while the other was not. Without further details to explain why one person was let go and the other retained, it appears that discrimination or imbalanced discipline may have occurred. If both employees are in a dating relationship that the company frowns on, why was only employee terminated?

Getting all the details

Is there more to the story? For example, did the fired employee date several coworkers and receive a verbal warning without a written policy in place? If so, maybe that is the basis for termination. If not, the matter needs to be further explored to determine if discrimination occurred, and if so, why? If it turns out the fired employee was unjustly terminated, there may be recourse for being rehired or some type of compensation, based on the circumstances.

Contact one of our dedicated attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich by phone 312.332.6733 or online today.

My Boss Wouldn’t Take Action When I Reported Being Harassed by a Co-Worker

Harassment in the workplace is illegal. Whether you’re being sexually harassed or harassed due to race, religion, sex, age, or national origin, you have the right to take legal action. If you report the situation to your employer and they do nothing, there are some steps you can take to receive justice. Here’s some advice:

1. Know the Different Types of Harassment

There are several types of harassment. The different types of harassment include race, sex, religion, age, national origin, color, marital status, or pregnancy. If you’re being singled out for any reason, it’s considered harassment.

It is also considered harassment if your employer denies you domestic violence leave or they if they will not allow you to object to illegal activity. If you’re denied wages or a promotion because you refuse to participate in illegal activity, you may have a case.

You cannot be harassed for taking family or medical leave or for filing a worker’s compensation claim if the employer has 50 or more employees. Employers also cannot harass people for having firearms locked in their non-company vehicles or harass you for missing work to testify under subpoena.

If your boss is just exhibiting abusive behavior, it’s not necessarily considered illegal behavior. Some small employers may not be protected at all. It’s important to know what justifies legal harassment in order to start legal action.

2. Speak With Your Human Resources Department

File a formal complaint with your human resources department. If they do not take any action, your next step is to obtain legal help. Be sure to make documentation of all correspondence. Comply with all meetings. Do not refuse to go to work or quit and do not record any of the conversations without permission.

Always give the employer an opportunity to fix the situation before suing the company. The victim may be moved to another location or the harasser may be terminated. If you don’t give the employer a right to rectify the situation, you may be giving up your right to sue.

3. Obtain an Attorney

Speak with an attorney to determine if you have a case. If you have a case, they can guide you on the proper steps to take to sue your harasser. They will probably advise you to bring it to the attention employer first. If you’ve done this, they’ll review your case and determine if you have the legal right to sue.

Have your attorney review your formal complaint. In general, bullying, hostile environment, or general harassment is not necessarily illegal. Be specific about your complaint. Entitle it “Formal Complaint of Sexual Harassment” or “Formal Complaint of Racial Harassment.”

Always Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

You cannot pursue legal action until you know what’s considered illegal. Always file a formal complaint and give your employer an opportunity to rectify the situation. If your employer retaliates or refuses to rectify the situation, you need to take legal action. Tell your attorney, and they will tell you the steps to take. It’s possible to get justice if you follow all the possible steps. Call 312.332.6733 or contact us online today to speak to an attorney.