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Sexual harassment in Maryland is an unlawful act that can affect both men and women. To be considered illegal, sexual harassment must be frequent and severe. It may create a workplace that is hostile or working conditions that are difficult to endure. The harasser can be either a woman or a man of any race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help if you are receiving unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances at work.
Sexual harassment can also include remarks or comments that are offensive in nature. They may be general comments about a women or men that are perceived as offensive. These comments are also illegal when they focus on a person’s sexual orientation and make references that are uncomfortable to another person.
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Types of Sexual Harassment
There are two types of sexual harassment that are prohibited by Maryland law. This includesquid pro quo and hostile environment harassment.
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Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment affects an employee’s ability to move forward with a company as part of their career trajectory. This type of harassment can cause a victim to lose their job, a promotion, or pay raise by refusing the sexual advances of a manager, supervisor, or boss. It could also be proven that if the employee accepted or was more receptive to the sexual advances being placed upon them, they would have been promoted, given a raise, or been able to keep their job.
Underquid pro quo, if an employee submits to the sexual advances from their manager, they may still file a complaint against them later. They are not precluded from this legal action as a victim and have the right to refuse the sexual suggestions of another at any time.
Hostile Environment Harassment
The other type of sexual harassment is hostile environment harassment. This type of harassment can occur from a co-worker or supervisor, and it typically happens in a workplace environment. In this instance, a victim would be subjected to sexual advances or offensive comments that make the work environment hostile and uncomfortable for them to work in.
These comments or sexual requests may cause victims to struggle with their job performance and affect their ability to complete their job as necessary or in a satisfactory way. Hostile environment harassment doesn’t affect an employee’s career potential as they are still able to receive promotions, pay raises, or additional job responsibilities. It is that the environment the employee is forced to work in is uncomfortable because of the sexual comments, actions, and/or gestures being made.
Hostile environment sexual harassment could put an employee in jeopardy as they are unable to complete their job responsibilities as required because of the sexual advances or gestures that are occurring. This can affect their ability to perform their job functions and cause them to underperform.
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Forms of Sexual Harassment
While sexual harassment can take many forms and each situation is unique, some examples of these type of behavior include:
- Questions or comments that are sexual in nature
- Offensive or vulgar language
- Physical actions that are sexual
- Degrading actions or comments
- Offensive imagery or literature
- Sexually explicit material
Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment in Maryland
In Maryland, an employer can be found liable for sexual harassment if an employee reported the abuse and no action was taken. The employer is required to discipline the harasser and provide adequate correction of the unwanted and offensive behavior. If no action is taken by the employer, the employee has a legal right to file a lawsuit against the harasser as well as the employer.
The employer is also prohibited from retaliating against the employee for filing a sexual discrimination complaint. This includes firing, demoting, or taking any sort of adverse actions against the employee when a sexual misconduct complaint has been filed.
While it is not required to have a company policy prohibiting sexual misconduct in the workplace, it is recommended that one is put in place and followed to protect against liability of complaints.
Penalties for Sexual Harassment in Maryland
There are penalties in place for violating the sexual harassment laws of Maryland. If a harasser has refused to stop their abusive actions, even after they have been asked to stop by the victim and/or employer, they face a misdemeanor charge to their record as well as imprisonment and a fine.
Additional penalties for sexual harassment in Maryland include:
- A first offense of sexual harassment of any kind could result in 90 days in prison and/or a fine upwards of $500
- A second offense of sexual harassment of any kind could result in 180 days in prison and/or fine upwards of $1000
Laws Governing Sexual Harassment in Maryland
There are several laws in Maryland that protect victims of sexual discrimination in Baltimore and elsewhere throughout the state.
These laws include:
- Annotated Code of Maryland: Prohibits discrimination of employment and prevents compensation disparity, adverse work conditions or term, and governs equal work privileges
- Maryland Personnel and Pensions Article: Outlines the guidelines for filing a discrimination complaint, as well as how to investigate a crime of sexual harassment
- Annotated Code of Maryland, Criminal Code: Makes persuasive sexual demands or contact illegal without consent
- Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act: Governs employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations in regards to sexual harassment
Victims of sexual behavior, gestures, and comments that are prohibited are also protected by federal law with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act makes it illegal to discriminate based on a person’s gender.
Stopping Sexual Harassment in Maryland
A victim of sexual harassment has the right to make the sexual abuse stop.
The appropriate and legal actions to make sexual harassment stop are:
- Tell the harasser that their behavior is unwarranted
- Make it clear and tell your harasser to stop
- Report the sexual harassment to your supervisor or HR department
- File a complaint with the Office of Employment and Program Equity
If a complaint is filed with the Office of Employment and Program Equity, charges could be filed within 30 days of the complaint. Charges can also be filed with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. These charges need to be filed within 180 days of the sexual harassment incident.
Making a Case against Sexual Harassment
As a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to document any and all incidents of abuse that are occurring. Ignoring the harassment will not make it stop. To file legal action against a harasser, a proper record of what happened needs to be created. This should be recorded in writing and include when, how, and who committed the acts of sexual harassment against the victim. If another co-worker has witnessed the misconduct, they too should provide a written detailed account of the events that occurred.
It is necessary to report the sexual harassment to a supervisor or other company official. Perform all communications in writing with the employer and keep a detailed record of its response and the corrective actions the employer took. Be cooperative when working with an employer to take the necessary measures to stop the harassment from occurring.
If other co-workers are being harassed, identify them to a supervisor, as well as all witnesses to the misconduct, so a proper investigation by the employer can occur.
Filing a Complaint against Sexual Harassment in Maryland
While sexual harassment lawsuits are filed under Maryland common law, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations (MCHR) enforces the laws of sexual misconduct. All complaints of sexual harassment need to be filed with the MCHR within six months of the last act of harassment by the victim against the offender. The 180-day deadline is strictly enforced and adhered.
As a victim of sexual harassment, a complaint can also be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rather than that of the MCHR. In Maryland, either agency is appropriate for the filing of a sexual discrimination complaint, as the two agencies have a working partnership that allows for this convenience for victims.
It is allowable to file a complaint with either agency if your employer has at minimum 15 employees. It is not necessary to report an employer with less than 15 employees to either agency prior to filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits in this respect can be filed immediately after the employer has been notified and no corrective action was taken.
After Filing of a Compliant For Sexual Harassment
Once a complaint has been filed, the MCHR will determine if an investigation should and needs to occur. Witnesses will be contacted, and the record of events will be requested in an attempt to determine if sexual harassment occurred as described in the complaint filing.
Following the investigation, the MCHR will determine if there is sufficient evidence to determine that discrimination occurred as a result of the sexual harassment actions. The determination by the Commission will be forward to the victim as well as the employer.
The MCHR will attempt to come to a settlement agreement in the case if the findings from its investigation support the victim’s claims. If an agreement is reached between the victim and the employer, an order will be set with terms of an agreement to follow. If the Commission doesn’t come to a conclusion within a 180-day time period, a lawsuit may be filed in the appropriate court after this time and without necessary approval. A sexual harassment lawyer may need to be consulted.
When a settlement cannot be reached by between the MCHR and the employer, the Commission will represent the victim and its findings before an administrative law judge. The victim also has the right at this time to file a lawsuit against the employer in the appropriate circuit court.
Hiring an Attorney for Sexual Harassment in Baltimore, MD
If a settlement is unable to be reached between a victim and an employer, further legal action may need to be taken in a court of law. By hiring a sexual harassment lawyer, a victim can make sure their legal rights are observed and followed according to the law. A victim of sexual harassment has the right to file a lawsuit against their harasser, as well as their employer if corrective action was not taken to stop the sexual advances from occurring in the workplace and the MCHR or EEOC could not come to a proper settlement agreement for all parties involved in the case.
A sexual harassment attorney can help a victim of sexual misconduct understand their rights in relation to the law and determine what legal action needs to be taken. Proper filing with the MCHR or EEOC can be expedited, and a victim’s legal rights can be protected. A sexual harassment lawyer can also provide the necessary legal support for the case as well as help navigate the legal waters of sexual harassment law.
Why Hire an Attorney for Your Sexual Harassment Case
When a sexual misconduct or discrimination case has been stalled by the Commission or EEOC, an attorney can be the catalyst that is needed to advance the case. Their legal experience can ensure that a settlement is reached and that the proper compensation is provided for the damages that were suffered by the victim as a result of the discrimination.
A sexual harassment lawyer can provide:
- Prompt filing with the appropriate agency
- Legal advice and counsel
- Guidance on next steps
- Representation in court
- Settlement negotiations
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you need to make the abuse stop. Theattorneys at Ashcraft & Gerel can help. We are experienced in handling sexual harassment cases and can help you get the justice you deserve from your employer. Whether you are looking to file a lawsuit or secure a lost promotion, pay raise, or a lost job, we know the law and can give you the legal advice you need to take the correct action to win your case.