There are laws in place in the United States making it illegal for people to carry out sexual harassment in the workplace or an educational institution. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment of this kind, you have the right to take legal action against the perpetrator and potentially the institution where it happened. In this guide, we explain the steps you should take if you want to sue for sexual harassment.
Sometimes it can be tricky to know what kind of behavior is legally defined as sexual harassment and what is not. Knowing the exact definition of sexual harassment can help you understand whether or not you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
To that end, acts that count as sexual harassment include:
While it can be difficult, speaking to the person who is harassing can help serve as a form of evidence in a lawsuit. In order to win a sexual harassment lawsuit, you must be able to prove that the perpetrator’s behavior was unwelcome, and one way to do so is to make it clear that you are offended by the behavior and ask for it to stop. Having this communication in writing will be especially helpful.
Note that if you feel unsafe speaking to or raising this issue with the perpetrator, you do not have to do. Your safety is the most important priority.
It is likely that the workplace or educational institution where the sexual harassment took place has policies and procedures in place for how you can make a harassment complaint. In order to be able to hold the institution liable in a sexual harassment case, you must be able to prove that they knew about and had an opportunity to remedy the harassment. If you make an official complaint following the stated policies and the institution fails to take the proper action, or retaliates against you in some way for complaining, they can be held legally liable.
Under federal law, you must first file an administrative charge with the EEOC or a similar state agency before you can bring a harassment lawsuit. If you fail to take this step, your lawsuit will be thrown out. Many states require victims to file an administrative complaint with their fair employment practices agency before filing a lawsuit, as well.
The EEOC requires you to file an administrative charge within 180 days of the most recent instance of sexual harassment. States also have their own specific deadlines for filing charges with their agencies.
After you file a charge, the EEOC will notify your employer and either dismiss, investigate, request mediation, or take another action. It is very rare for the EEOC to file a lawsuit on victims’ behalf, so it’s likely that you will instead receive a “right to sue” letter. With this letter in hand, you can file a lawsuit.
Your next step will be to actually file your sexual harassment lawsuit. It is highly recommended that you hire a lawyer to help you do so. They will be able to help with a number of important things including:
In fact, it may even be a good idea to hire a lawyer before this stage, as they can also help with drafting your administrative charge and helping you communicate with the institution.
Find and contact a sexual harassment lawyer today for a free review of your case.