If you look at the NYC headlines for cases in which lawyers open up litigation against other lawyers, or at least where a suit happens between employees and/or partners of the same law firm, it becomes increasingly apparent that many of these are sexual harassment cases. Most recently Juan E. Monteverde, a partner at Faruqi & Faruqi LLP, came under fire for repeatedly sexually harassing a “summer associate” who worked at the same firm (you can read more about it here). It’s an unfortunate reminder that even those most well-versed in law are capable of abusing it, as well as that sexual harassment in the workplace is still a major problem in this country. Whether it occurs while working at a law firm or in any other workplace setting, there are certain things to remember about suing for sexual harassment.
Steps You Need to Take
Make it clear that the sexual behavior is unwelcome
Sexual harassment will only be considered such if the sexual behavior is “unwelcome”. If you have clearly and firmly refused all advances, communicated that the behavior is offensive and unwelcome, and taken all steps to establish without confusion to the offender that his/her behavior must end promptly, the defendant will not be able to claim any lack of judgment in court.
Record everything in writing
When making clear that an offender’s behavior is unwelcome, you should write them a letter and keep a copy. If the harassment continues, write down every incident that transpires, and also have your co-workers write down what they see and hear as well. These records will probably be read by others if taken to court. Do not keep these records on work premises or anywhere that they can be tampered with or stolen.
Report the harassment (also in writing)
If you fail to report the harassment to your employer, they may not be legally responsible for the actions of the employee harassing you, even if that employee is a supervisor OR the owner him/herself. Remember that retaliation is against the law.
Keep records of all communication
Just as you have been keeping everything else in writing, so should you keep records of communication as well. All of these records may be used as evidence.
Look into work grievance procedures
Employers generally will have a grievance procedure to deal with sexual harassment cases within the company. Follow these procedures before seeking any legal restitution.
File a complaint with the EEOC
If you are going to file a lawsuit, don’t forget to file a formal sexual harassment complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as your state’s fair employment agency. Don’t forget to do this and don’t miss your dealing for filing, which is usually about 180 days after the act of sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment and Retaliation are Against Federal Law
Remember that sexual harassment is against federal law under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This act makes employers responsible for preventing and halting sexual harassment of employees. Also remember that retaliation is against the law, so if you are fired, demoted, or otherwise treated differently for complaining or participating as a witness in a sexual harassment trial, you have the right to try that employer in court.
The point here is that everybody is protected equally against sexual harassment in the U.S. by federal law—even if the provocateur of said harassment has made their profession practicing that law. Justice does not discriminate.
About the Author: Noah Kovacs has over ten years’ experience in the legal field. He has since retired early and enjoys blogging about small business law, civil litigation, and everything in between. He recently purchased his first cabin and spends his free time remodeling. Twitter: @NoahKovacs
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by this guest blogger are his alone and do not reflect the opinions of Lawsuit Financial or any employee thereof. Lawsuit Financial is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information contained within the guest blog. The inclusion of a link or reference does not imply the endorsement of the linked site by the Lawsuit Financial.