Dealing with sexual harassment in a Seattle, Bellevue, or Vancouver workplace is not something that any person should have to deal with on their own. An experienced Seattle workplace harassment attorney will be able to help you determine if you should pursue legal action against the harasser and, from there your attorney will handle all of the stressful work.
How does the U.S. define “sexual harassment”?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature that is detrimental to a positive work environment. This includes anything that is aimed at someone solely because of that person’s gender.
Examples (taken from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity) include:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
How does Washington State handle sexual harassment?
Statues against discrimination in employment are found in RCW 49.60. This chapter establishes a Human Rights Commission and describes unfair practices for public or private employers.
RCW 49.60.180 establishes the right of an employee to sue an employer for hostile work environment, quid pro quo sexual harassment, and gender discrimination.
RCW 49.76 requires employers to offer domestic violence/sexual assault leave or work on a reduced schedule. This is for when an employee or family member of said employee has been the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The employee may choose paid or unpaid leave in order to:
- Seek legal or law enforcement assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of themselves or the victimized family member;
- Seek treatment by a health care provider for physical or mental injuries or to attend to that of the victimized family member;
- Obtain or help the victimized family member obtain mental health counseling;
- Take actions (such as relocation) to increase their safety or that of the victimized family member.
What claims will be recognized under sexual harassment laws?
Claims regarding behavior that:
- Has occurred more than once and is not trivial;
- Was clearly uninvited;
- Directed towards one gender specifically, rather than the both. The victim need not be a woman and the harasser need not be a male, nor do the harasser and the victim need to be different genders;
- Came from someone who is not an employer in a religious organization.
Sexual harassment claims are more likely to be successful when:
- Submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions;
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
One may still have a case when the conduct occurred without economic injury or discharge of the victim, or even when the victim is not the person harassed, but anyone negatively affected by the offensive conduct.
If I am being sexually harassed, who is liable?
- The employer, if someone having formal authority over you directly participated in the harassment, OR if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt and effective action in response to it (as in the case of co-workers or even non-employees);
- Individual supervisors or managers where their own actions are directly discriminatory;
- A union or its agents;
- An employment agency.
If I am being sexually harassed, what should I do?
- Inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. This may be a difficult step in itself, as it requires confrontation, but it gives the harasser a chance to redeem himself or herself before you take action.
- Note each detail of the harassment (date, time, witnesses, significant events, physical and emotional responses), and gather evidence (when you have permission to do so).
- Use a complaint or grievance system if one is available to you. This may help involve the harasser’s supervisors. Make a copy of the complaint you submit and be aware that your complaint may not be kept confidential.
- Maintain a record of solid job performance. Behaviors such as excessive absenteeism, tardiness, sloppy work performance, etc. will hurt your claim. Gather documents like a written job description and written job evaluation. It will help show that your quality of work and work habits were appropriate.
The most common response to sexual harassment is to ignore it and hope that it just stops on its own. Unfortunately, that response has a very low success rate. When the harassment ultimately continues, victims tend to become frequently absent from work to try to avoid the harasser. Many victims will also end up trying to rationalize the harassment, asking themselves if they are just being too sensitive.
Reporting sexual harassment can be very difficult and many are too embarrassed to come forward. But not reporting it will lead to increased stress, poor job performance, fear of physical safety and anxiety, along with many other physical and psychological problems. If you feel that you have been or are being sexually harassed in your workplace, now is the time to call an experienced Seattle sexual harassment lawyer.
Why You Should Choose PLG
At Premier Law Group, we understand that figuring out what to do after you have been sexually harassed can be very confusing, and we are here to help you through the process. We are aggressive employment attorneys with years of experience in successfully representing people in Seattle, Bellevue, Renton and Federal Way, who have been harassed at work. We have won millions of dollars for our past clients, and we will do whatever we can to help you recover the maximum possible compensation. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, call us at 206-285-1743.