Allegations of sexual misconduct have recently surfaced against numerous powerful men including Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, TV journalists Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, and politicians including Senator Al Franken and Representatives. John Conyers, Jr. and Blake Farenthold. As a result of the widespread media coverage of these allegations, sexual harassment allegations in the workplace are likely to increase.
Workplace Sexual Harassment is Against the Law
Both federal and Texas law recognize sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. These statutes provide protection to workers at workplaces with 15 or more employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, in the workplace. Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code contains state law counterparts.
If you believe you have a workplace sexual harassment claim to bring against an employer, you should learn about what constitutes a sexual harassment claim and the steps you should take to start the legal process. Here are several sources of information on this topic based on the experience of Kilgore & Kilgore lawyers who handle these and other types of employment law claims against employers. To read about sexual harassment claims in the workplace, click here Sexual Harassment Lawyers. Read on in this article to see if you have a viable sexual harassment or retaliation claim; if so, contact us and hear from a Kilgore lawyer, click here Contact Kilgore & Kilgore.
Our Employment Lawyers Defend Clients Who Have Been Unlawfully Treated by Their Employers
The lawyers at Kilgore & Kilgore have extensive experience defending employees who have been unlawfully treated by their employers. For example, read the testimonial from a former client who pressed her sexual harassment and wrongful termination claim in 2012 and tells of that experience, click here Thanks from a Grateful Client.
Different Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment Claims
Sexual harassment claims in the employment context generally fall into two often-related categories. The first category is a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim. The second category is a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. A related claim for retaliation could also arise if the employer unlawfully retaliates against the employee for engaging in protected activity.
Workplace Sexual Harassment in a Hostile Work Environment
Many people talk about a hostile work environment, which actually is a specific kind of sexual harassment claim. In order to bring a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim against an employer, the employee generally must meet several elements. These include:
- That the employee with the claim belongs to a protected group;
- That s/he was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment;
- That the harassment was based on the employee’s sex;
- That the harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of his/her employment; and
- That the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt remedial action.
The harassment must be either severe or pervasive in order to affect a term, condition, or privilege of the person’s employment. In order for an employer’s conduct to be severe, it must be extremely serious. Courts generally have determined that teasing, certain isolated incidents, and offhand comments do not meet the severe test. Likewise, one or two comments made by the employer probably will not satisfy the pervasive requirement.
If the sexual harassment is severe or pervasive, then an employee could potentially resign his/her position and assert a claim for constructive discharge. However, before resigning, an employee who intends to pursue a legal claim for a hostile work environment resulting in his/her constructive discharge should make sure that s/he can satisfy all of the legal elements of a claim for a hostile work environment. If an employee resigns but cannot satisfy all of the legal requirements, then any claim for a hostile work environment is likely to fail in court, leaving the employee without a legal remedy.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
The second type of sexual harassment claim is for quid pro quo sexual harassment. In Latin, quid pro quo means something for something. In order to succeed on a quid pro sexual harassment claim, the employee must show that:
- S/he suffered a tangible employment action, and
- That the tangible employment action resulted from his/her acceptance or rejection of a supervisor’s, or possibly a co-worker’s, sexual advances.
A tangible employment action could include hiring, firing, failing to promote, a reassignment with significantly different job responsibilities, or a meaningful change in benefits. The employee must show that his/her acceptance or rejection of the supervisor’s, or possibly co-worker’s, sexual advances resulted in the tangible employment action against the employee.
Employment Retaliation as a Punishment
Sometimes, in the context of sexual harassment, a related claim for retaliation could arise. To establish a claim for retaliation, an employee must show that s/he:
- Engaged in protected activity,
- That there was an adverse action by the employer against the employee, and
- A causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.
For example, to succeed on a retaliation claim, an employee would need to show that s/he got fired or demoted for filing a formal complaint or charge of sexual harassment.
How to Start a Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim in Texas
To assert a legal claim in Texas for sexual harassment or retaliation against an employer, an employee must first file a charge or complaint within a certain number of days following the occurrence of discrimination with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Texas Workforce Commission, respectively. Generally, an employee must file a charge with the EEOC or the TWC within a certain number of days from the date of the adverse employment action. For greater detail about filing and processing claims in Texas, click this link Filing Claims and Procedures of the EEOC or TWC. Generally, only after all of the procedures at the EEOC or the TWC have been fully exhausted may the employee proceed to either federal or state court.
Reach Out to Kilgore & Kilgore’s Employment Law Attorneys
Kilgore & Kilgore understands this issue of workplace sexual harassment and has handled many such cases. Our attorneys have brought claims and won cases for victims of employer abuse. Read the testimonials from former clients who successfully brought their claims, then wrote to Kilgore & Kilgore to express their gratitude, click here Client Testimonials. If you have a viable sexual harassment or retaliation claim you wish to discuss, contact us and hear from a Kilgore lawyer, click here Contact Kilgore & Kilgore.