How to Prove Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

There are laws to protect you from sexual harassment in the workplace. These come under the 1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of which defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination.

Under Title VII, employers who employ 15 or more workers including state and local governments, employment agencies, the federal government and labor organizations are not permitted to allow sexual harassment to take place in their workplaces.

If you have filed a complaint with your employer on a complaint form regarding sexual harassment by someone in the workplace and you have had no response, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). 

The first move they will make is to take up the matter with your employer which could involve mediation to resolve the matter.

If the sexual harassment is serious and can’t be resolved with your employer or the perpetrator, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer for allowing this to happen.

How to Identify Sexual Harassment

The most common form of sexual harassment is Quid Pro Quo. This is when an employee is offered benefits such as a better position or material gains when agreeing to unwelcome sexual advancements.

These cases aren’t easy to prove as the employee has to provide adequate proof that the harasser caused harm through inappropriate sexual advances.

You may know whether you have been sexually harassed, but you have to be able to define the type of sexual harassment. Some actions are obvious while others can be more concealed but they can include any of the following:

  • openly asking for sexual favors;
  • showing offensive images;
  • making offensive comments/jokes in your presence;
  • unwelcomed touching and groping;
  • taunting you about your looks in a sexual sense in front of others;
  • sending offensive sexual messages via voice mail, text messaging, emailing and in a note form.

One of the main points about any type of sexual harassment is that the victim has to agree that the harassment was not welcome.

This is the point that makes it difficult for the employer to accept when a complaint has been lodged, especially if you have a known association with the perpetrator either in the capacity as a co-worker or a friend.

How to Document Sexual Harassment

As soon as you are aware of the sexual harassment and you know that this sort of behavior is not permitted in the workplace and you do not welcome it, you will need to prepare yourself to complete a complaint form provided by your employer.

In any case of sexual harassment the proof is in the evidence. You will need to keep a written record of at least the following:

  • a detailed description of every sexual harassment incident;
  • the time, place and location where each sexual harassment incident took place;
  • name of the person who instigated the sexual harassment;
  • photographic evidence of the incident (if possible);
  • print outs of emails which contain language that can be defined as sexually harassing;
  • records of text messages using sexual harassment language;
  • recordings of voice mail messages using sexual harassment language;
  • eye witnesses reports of the sexual harassment incident which could include co-workers or even customers.

As soon as you have sufficient evidence to prove sexual harassment has taken place you can complete the complaint form provided by your employer.

You can include all the evidence with the complaint form as this gives your employer no reason to refute your claim. If your complaint is not accepted by your employer because it doesn’t think that you have really been sexually harassed then it is time to contact an employment lawyer to help you negotiate with your employer.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

The first thing the lawyer will do is contact your employer on your behalf to discuss your case and explain in more detail the nature of your sexual harassment.

If they fails to respond the next thing your attorney will do is file a complaint with the EEOC. This is a necessary step before you are eligible to file a lawsuit against your employer for allowing sexual harassment to take place in the workplace.

 The EEOC will conduct its own investigation which could involve arranging mediation between you and your employer with your attorney present. If this all fails then you will need to discuss filing a lawsuit with your employment lawyer.

Additional Resources