Silver Spring Sexual Harassment Attorney
Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in which submission to or rejection of this conduct affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can be caused by a supervisor or co-worker. The harasser can be a man or a woman, and the victim can be either the same or opposite sex as the harasser.
If you have questions surrounding sexual harassment at your work place, do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Morris E. Fischer, LLC.
Hostile Work Environments — Assistance from an Experienced Lawyer Serving Washington, D.C. and the Surrounding Areas
The Supreme Court of the United States has clarified that sexual harassment is generally categorized into two groups:
- The first group involves harassment causing a loss of a tangible employment action, referred to as a "quid pro quo" situation. A typical case of this kind of sexual harassment may involve a supervisor and employee who went out socially on one or two occasions. The supervisor then made advances to the employee to deepen this social relationship into a romantic or sexual relationship. When the employee communicated to his or her supervisor that he or she was not interested in pursuing this kind of relationship, the supervisor retaliated against the employee by taking away job responsibilities, downgrading evaluations or failing to promote him or her. This constitutes sexual harassment because the supervisor is establishing that a condition of employment is contingent upon the employee's acquiescence to the sexual favors.
- The second group of sexual harassment involves a hostile work environment caused by anyone, including co-workers, customers or vendors who create an atmosphere affecting the employee's ability to complete his or her job duties and responsibilities. This may include actions such as ridiculing one's sexuality; repeatedly telling inappropriate jokes of a sexual nature for which the employee has expressed a distaste; using demeaning language or nicknames for the employee; unnecessary contact with the employee; or engaging in hostile physical conduct.
The common law has established another important element for establishing a hostile work environment claim. It must be both objectively and subjectively abusive. This means that the victim had to experience what he or she believed to be abuse and that a reasonable person in the victim's shoes would have also seen that the actions taken against him or her were abusive. The reason for these requirements is that the courts essentially do not recognize claims in which the employee went along with the overall office "horseplay" type of behavior or a minor incident in which the offender immediately apologizes for the conduct.
Once Sexual Harassment Has Occurred, Is My Employer Liable?
Not necessarily. If the sexual harassment is of the "quid pro quo" nature and the harasser is the employee's supervisor or has the equivalent power of a supervisor over the employee, the employer will be liable. However, if the sexual harassment consisted of a hostile work environment, then the following special rules apply: If a supervisor committed the sexual harassment, then the employer can avoid liability if it demonstrates one of two conditions: (1) that when the employer found out about the harassment it took reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the sexually harassing behavior; or (2) the employee failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer to avoid harm otherwise.
If the hostile work environment was caused by a co-worker, then the employer can avoid liability if it demonstrates: (1) that it did not know about the harassment; or (2) when it found out about it, the employer took immediate steps to correct it.
What this means to the sexually harassed employee is that the employee should complain to the human resources department about the sexual harassment. Failing to do so can jeopardize that person's legal rights. In many cases, companies have anti-sexual harassment policies which the employee should consult before filing with the EEOC or other similar state institution.
What Kind of Evidence Will Help Me Prevail in a Sexual Harassment Case?
There are many ways to win an employment law case; however, almost all of them include production of evidence the court will allow at trial. Witnesses to the harassment can be very significant, but the lack of them does not necessarily mean that you cannot prove your case otherwise. Witnesses may also include people you reported the sexual harassment to or simply other co-workers to whom you told about the events that occurred to you. It is very helpful to keep a written record of all the incidents that occurred to you. Also, in many cases, e-mail trails can reveal conversations pertaining to the sexual harassment events. We will work with you to uncover all the important evidence in your case.
What Kind of Representation Do You Provide for Sexual Discrimination Cases?
In general, our office is about tough, aggressive and vigorous representation. In sexual harassment cases, these attributes are needed more than ever. We know how difficult the ordeal to live through is for employees as this can disrupt family life and careers. We invite you to contact our Maryland law office and discuss your case with a knowledgeable hostile workplace attorney.