A sexual harassment lawsuit is as painstaking as it is common. It’s illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace and it violates the Civil Rights Act. If you’re experiencing workplace sexual harassment, you have the right to seek justice and file a lawsuit.
You should educate yourself on the law and expectations when filing a lawsuit. It’s important to understand how to file, how to prove your case, and how settlements work. This guide will prepare you for this legal process.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
Sexual harassment covers a whole myriad of behaviors. You may be experiencing any of the following:
- Hostile work environment
- Offensive language
- Unwanted flirting and sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature
If you decide to file a claim following a sexual harassment incident, there are federal and state laws to understand. Federal law requires you to file against your company, not a particular employee.
Filing Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
You’ll have to file through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the company has 15 or more employees. The claim is filed as a civil rights case if the company has fewer than 15 employees, and your jurisdiction follows a civil rights statute.
When filing a claim with the EEOC, the commission will send a notice to your employer within 10 days. Some instances will request a mediator to try to help you and the employer agree on a voluntary settlement. The EEOC can also close the investigation for the following reasons:
- The EEOC doesn’t handle laws related to your specific case.
- It’s decided that there’s a strong likelihood that the EEOC won’t be able to determine if a law was violated.
- Your claim wasn’t filed within the appropriate amount of time — within 180 (300 days for some states) days of the last incident.
When mediation isn’t advised or doesn’t resolve the claim, the employer must give a written response to the charge. The EEOC will continue with interviews and gathering documents to investigate the employer. This process can take up to 10 months, and The Melton Law Firm can help you each step of the way.
Filing Under Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964
When filing a sexual harassment charge with a larger company, it will be under the Civil Rights Act. Your state or local jurisdiction may have varying laws in this case.
You’ll need to go through the EEOC to obtain a Notice of Right to Sue in order to file a lawsuit in federal court. It can take up to 180 days to resolve your charge. It’s best to check with your state civil rights office to check on the specific process for your jurisdiction.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Settlement
Out-of-court legal settlements for sexual harassment cases are extremely common. This means that the employer offers the claimant compensation to keep the claim out of court. This is often accompanied by confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements to avoid any bad publicity.
Employees settle typically because they want to avoid an extensive and risky legal battle. Settlements also guarantee a payout and may be the best chance at justice. This can also provide empowerment knowing a claim was asserted, accepted, and compensated.
Whether or not an out-of-court settlement is on the table, damages for sexual harassment are calculated. This involves compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages include losses that are able to be calculated. Payments involve the following:
- Medical costs and counseling
- Lost pay, tips, bonuses, and commissions
- Lost benefits – healthcare, pension, retirement, PTO, stock
- Back pay – awarded if the employee was fired or lost their job due to sexual harassment.
- Front pay – awarded to the claimant for the time between the settlement and reinstatement. If reinstatement is not applicable, then future potential earnings are calculated.
Punitive damages cannot be calculated and are intended as punishment for the employer’s actions. Payments involve the following:
- Proof from the claimant that the employer knew about the sexual harassment and didn’t stop it
- Negligent intentional actions by the employer that can be proved to the jury
Limits for compensatory and punitive damages under federal law:
- Company with 150-100 employees = $50,000 limit
- Company with 101-200 employees = $100,000 limit
- Company with 201-500 employees = $200,000 limit
- Company with more than 500 employees = $300,000 limit
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It can be difficult dealing with sexual harassment, and lawsuits can be complicated. You can prepare for handling the applicable laws with the right law firm. Filing a sexual harassment lawsuit can be less stressful with legal aid, and you’ll gain a better understanding of the claim process.
If you’re interested in learning more, discover more law articles and resources here on our blog.