It is surprising to some that sexual harassment is still happening in workplaces across the country. Each year thousands of people file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EECO) alleging harassment that is either based on a person’s gender or is sexual in nature. While the law does not strictly prohibit teasing or offhand comments, harassment that is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or that results in an adverse employment decision such as being fired or demoted may violate various federal and state laws.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, there are a few steps to take to build your case before contacting a sexual harassment lawyer.
One of the most important things a victim of sexual harassment can do is preserve evidence of the harassment. This can take many forms depending on the way a person is experiencing harassment:
- Via Text – If someone is sending you unwanted pictures or text messages of a sexual nature, it is important to upload any pictures or text messages to the cloud, take a screenshot and send it to your email or print off any messages. Whatever you do, do not clear any data from your phone or damage your phone in any way.
- Via Email – If you are receiving harassing emails or emails of a sexual nature, even if they are on your work email address, be sure to forward them to your personal account. If you work in an environment that does not allow you to forward emails to another account, be sure to print them out for documentation. Even taking a photo of your screen with the email pulled up is better than nothing.
- In Person – Document, document, document. Every time you have an encounter of a harassing nature, be sure to write down what was said, who was present and the date and time of the incident.
Mind the statute of limitations
Every party has an obligation to preserve evidence as soon as there is a reasonable anticipation of a lawsuit. Practically, this means that as soon as you inform your employer of your intent to bring a claim, they are required to save relevant email communication, any documentation of phone calls or other evidence. However, you do not have an obligation to inform your employer of your intent to bring a claim. You can collect evidence and document encounters as long as you are comfortable doing so, but in New York and Virginia, you have 300 days to bring a claim before the EEOC. If you choose to bring your claim before a state enforcement body, such as the Virginia Human Rights Commission, you may only have 180 days to file a claim.
Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible
Remember, it is unlawful to harass a person because of their gender, give unwanted sexual advances, make requests for sexual favors, or physically or verbally harass a person in a sexual way. Harassment can come from anywhere – a supervisor, a co-worker, a client, or a customer. Regardless of the source or nature, it is important to contact a sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible to discuss your sexual harassment case. The sexual harassment attorneys at The Elan Law Firm can guide you through the next steps in mounting a case and begin to relieve you of the burden of harassment and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.