How to Prove Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Author: Nicki Malekadeli
Posted on: July 24, 2019

According to a recent study, sexual harassment incident rates in California are above the national average. This was found through a joint investigation conducted by the Center for Gender Equity and Health (GEH) and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). Despite the rise of the MeToo Movement, these organizations found that there was five percent increase in sexual harassment claims from women and a ten percent increase in claims from men in California compared to the federal mean. While the system of law favors the complainant in sexual harassment cases, the burden of proof can still weigh heavily on victims.

To prove sexual harassment in the workplace, be sure to bear the following considerations in mind as you pursue your case:

Know What Sexual Harassment Looks Like

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances or any misconduct of a sexual nature. It is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1994 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEAH). One must first identify when the acts of harassment occurred to prove sexual harassment. Understand that sexual misdemeanor is not limited to physical advances, and could be carried out in a variety of ways.

Acts of sexual harassment are legally categorized as either quid pro quo or hostile work environment sexual harassment. The former involves asking for sexual favors or tolerance of advances in exchange for employment benefits, while the latter creates an unconducive workplace through incessant inappropriate behaviors. Below are some forms of sexual harassment that you can experience in the workplace:

  • Verbal Sexual Harassment – making unwanted, sexually-charged comments
  • Nonverbal Misconduct – staring at someone suggestively; making offensive gestures or facial expressions
  • Visual Harassment – displaying or sharing indecent photos, videos, or emails
  • Physical Sexual Harassment – touching, groping, and other unwanted contact

Confront Your Offender

Speaking up about your harassment experience is the first step to putting an end to offensive behaviors. An explicit expression of discomfort also confirms that the sexual advances in question were unwelcome and can be a crucial element when building your case.

Perpetrators typically argue that their actions did not seem to be a big deal to their victims or say that the complainants participated willingly. In scenarios involving hostile work environment sexual harassment, offenders defend themselves by saying their inappropriate remarks were mere forms of friendly banter while some may be oblivious to the negative effects of their actions to others.

To stop the propagation of sexual harassment in the workplace as well as secure the upper hand in court, you need to be upfront about the unwelcomeness of such actions.

Keep a Sexual Harassment Log

Make a written log of the abuses as soon as you feel that you were sexually harassed. A detailed and accurate account of all sexual harassment incidents will help your case tremendously as it would provide a timeline of events and demonstrate how the actions escalated. Record and describe offensive conversations, touching, and other inappropriate behaviors. Also mention the names of people involved and take note of when the acts of harassment transpired.

Add hard evidence to your logs whenever possible. Attach original memos, cards, photos, and emails that contain proof of sexual harassment. You can also write down your emotional response after being subject to abuse as this would make your logs more authentic while giving an investigatory board a better perspective of the situation.

Gather Other Evidence

Look into avenues that could lead you in acquiring additional evidence for your claims. Ask around for witnesses or other victims who are willing to make testimonies of the incidents. If your office is equipped with security cameras, request CCTV footage of the area where the abuse occurred. The more tangible evidence you collect, the easier it would be to prove your claims.

Follow the Stages of Filing a Sexual Harassment Case

Proper procedure should be followed when filing a sexual harassment complaint. Revisit your company handbook and review the policies regarding the matter before doing anything else. If it has provisions stating special requirements for filing a sexual harassment case, be sure to comply with them. You can then approach your supervisor or the head of human resources since alerting your company of the incident is vital to move your complaint forward and have it investigated. It will also help you hold the entire organization liable in the event of inaction.

The next step would be to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They will process your complaint and give you a right to sue letter. Once you’ve received their confirmation, you can file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your abuser. Issue a formal complaint with the EEOC or a similar state agency first before you proceed with pursuing a lawsuit, as skipping the step will have your case thrown out.

Lodge a Complaint Within the Statute of Limitations

The EEOC requires you to file your case within 180 days of the incident, while the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in California gives you a whole year to lodge a complaint. Missing this window of opportunity can lead to serious consequences such as forfeiting claims and harassment lawsuit payouts. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it is best to file sexual harassment charges as soon as possible to ensure the perpetrator would not get away without facing legal repercussions.

Track Your Complaint’s Progress

Follow up with your company or the EEOC in case your complaint is taking too long to move forward. At the internal level, it is crucial to document the response or inaction of your employer as it would strengthen your argument for punitive damages, or damages aimed to punish companies that display egregious behavior.

Hire a Sexual Harassment Attorney

Building a sexual harassment case is a challenging task as it requires recounting your distressing experiences. Knowing your rights and the grounds for a harassment lawsuit is not enough to guarantee a winning case. Hire an expert sexual harassment attorney to forward your claims. Get a free consultation at Mesriani Law Group and speak with a seasoned sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles to help you get the justice you deserve.