When Should You Hire a Harassment Lawyer?

The laws of the land consider workplace harassment a serious legal issue. However, when it comes to the proportion of employees reporting workplace harassment, the numbers are believed to be considerably lower than what the spread of the offense is. It is because many employees often hesitate to report sexual harassment. They fear that taking legal recourse against harassment would lead them to lose their jobs. Many victims of workplace harassment often suffer from a lack of relevant information about the rights they are entitled to. For one, it is illegal to fire an employee who has filed a workplace harassment lawsuit. Many victims often choose not to report these incidents fearing social stigma and ostracization. To understand why one might need a harassment lawyer, it is essential to understand what constitutes harassment. 

What is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment comes in direct contradiction with the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also violates the provisions of the Employment Act of 1967 relating to age discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. According to the parameters set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, any unruly behavior, expressed verbally or physically, involving the race, color, religion, sex, gender/gender identity, nationality, age, physical or mental disability, or genetic information is to be seen as harassment. 

It becomes punishable by law when consent to such conduct is a prerequisite to continued employment. It is also unlawful when such behavior turns the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive. 

Many progressive companies and states take a broad approach when dealing with harassment. Many states consider discrimination against a person based on whether he/she is a smoker as harassment. According to the latest available numbers, nearly 35 states and more than 150 cities consider discrimination based on arrest records or convictions as harassment. 

Overall, harassment includes a wide range of acts, including offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, assault, ridicule, insults, and more. Another important thing to remember here is that to make a complaint as a victim of sexual harassment, one does not need to be someone whom the insult is intended. It can be anyone who feels affected by harassing behavior. 

Types of Workplace Harassment

A wide range of unlawful acts may constitute workplace harassment. We would discuss some of the most frequent types of violations to understand how harassment perpetrates and how to deal with it.

  • Harassment Centered on a Person’s Sexual Orientation:

Revealing your sexual orientation and living a life of dignity with whatever orientation one has is a fundamental right. However, it does not stop people from discriminating based on one’s sexual identity. Hurling insults or ridiculing someone for his/her sexual identity is a legally prohibited act of workplace harassment. One should not feel hesitant to take action against the perpetrators of such acts. 

  • Harassment Using Power or Authority:

A person in a position of power can abuse his authority in ways more than one. He/she may try to intimidate his/her co-workers, to serve his/her purpose. He/she may try to make the atmosphere hostile for a particular employee or a group of employees if he/she has any grudge against them and want them to leave the company. One in the position of power may also try to bully his/her subordinate co-workers just for his/her entertainment. 

Things can be a bit more complex than the above as well. For example, one in the position of power may force an employee to carry out a task which the employee is incapable of doing because of a known disability he/she has. Apart from subtly creating a situation of unmanageable stress, harassment can be as direct as inflicting physical hurt on someone knowingly. 

  • Sexual Harassment: 

Many victims of sexual harassment suffer from not knowing which behaviors constitute sexual harassment. It is important to note that sexual harassment is not only about trying to make unwanted physical contact with someone. Sexual harassment is of different forms. Showing audiovisual material of explicit sexual nature counts as harassment. Making comments that have sexual implications counts as harassment. Even staring at someone with sexual implications counts as harassment in the eyes of the law. Therefore, employees can take legal actions against any behavior at the workplace that are explicitly sexual or is laden with sexual implications. 

  • Harassment During Job Interviews:

Harassment may happen within as short a time as it needs to conduct a job interview. The employers, taking advantage of the position that they are in, can ask all sorts of questions that are discriminatory. Victims and perpetrators often do not know that it is not okay to ask about an interviewee’s details during an interview. Such personal details may include information relating to a person’s race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, disabilities, etc. 

Hiring a Harassment Lawyer

By now, it is evident that harassment may happen in many forms. It is also clear that victims are often not fully aware of what rights they are entitled to and what legal recourses they can seek. In case of harassment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that the victim discusses the issue with the perpetrator first and let him/her know about the discomforts his/her actions are creating. However, this does not seem a feasible approach in many cases. In such cases, the victims may take up the issue with their supervisors. They may also bring the case to the notice of the workplace harassment committee active within the company. Once all these avenues have been explored, and a solution is still out of one’s reach, it is prudent to consult with a harassment lawyer. 

Hiring a harassment lawyer proves useful because an experienced attorney knows all about the federal and any specific state provision that may prove effective for the case. An attorney can guide on how to file a complaint and what evidence to submit to back up the claims made. They can also guide on what points to stress upon if the matter goes for a trial. Victims of severe harassment often fail to garner the right kind of mental courage. In such situations having a harassment lawyer to defend one’s rights adds to the confidence of the victim. 

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