We Help Employees Find Justice After Facing Unfair or Harmful Treatment
Sexual harassment has long been a part of the workplace, and thanks to recent cultural movements, it has become more acceptable to speak up. Perpetrators are finally being held accountable for discriminatory behavior. Coming forward with claims of sexual harassment is still not easy, however. Ashcraft & Gerel applauds the bravery of those who raise their voices. We are proud to help employees file sexual harassment claims against companies that do not protect their workers.
Our attorneys have a deep knowledge of Maryland’s recent laws bolstering employee’s rights in sexual harassment claims. No matter the circumstances of your situation, we can help you understand your legal options and, if applicable, what you should do to ensure your case does not face avoidable legal challenges. Ashcraft & Gerel has been fighting to help individuals find justice against negligent companies since 1953. We stand by employees who have been sexually harassed.
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Identifying Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment can take many forms and have many motivations. Sometimes, harassers simply think they’re being “funny” or paying coworkers a compliment. Other times, sexual harassment is used to underscore power dynamics or drive certain workers out of a job or company. No matter the harasser’s intent, all sexual harassment is illegal and should be handled swiftly by a company.
Sexual harassment can take two forms:
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Quid Pro Quo, or “This for That”
As the name suggests,quid pro quo sexual harassment involves an offer or implication that sexual favors must be traded for workplace benefits or advancement. Workers may be denied pay raises, promotions, or more favorable hours or duties for refusing to go along with the harassment. In some cases, they may even face retaliation if they refuse the advances.
Quid pro quo harassment is typically committed by those in leadership positions who have the power to affect others’ career opportunities.
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Sexual harassment does not have to have a specific end, or even a specific target, to be illegal. Hostile environment sexual harassment is caused by repeated inappropriate and/or unwelcome workplace conduct that either affects an employee’s ability to do their job or causes them intimidation or offense.
This kind of harassment may entail:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Sexual propositions or suggestive comments
- Discussion of or implications about someone’s sex life or sexual abilities
- Inappropriately sexual language
- Jokes or stories of a sexual nature
- The display or sharing of sexual video, imagery, or other content
- Leering, whistling, or other sexually charged behaviors
- Inappropriate physical contact
When it comes to hostile work environment sexual harassment, you must be able to show the conduct was repeated; one instance of harassment is inappropriate, but not enough to make an environment hostile. It should be noted that you may bring a claim for this type of harassment even if the harasser thinks their conduct is perfectly appropriate. Your co-workers do not get to define what should or should not make you uncomfortable.
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Who Can Be A Harasser?
Though stereotypes about workplace harassment abound, anyone may engage in illegally appropriate behavior. Harassment can happen:
- Regardless of gender—both men and women can be harassed. A harasser may be the same gender as or another gender than their target.
- Regardless of position—a harasser may target those who are below them, on the same level, or even above them in an organization.
- Regardless of direct ties—a harasser is not always in the same team or department as their target.
- When another employee is not involved—clients and customers can harass workers. Their conduct is still illegal, and your supervisor or another person in your company should prevent such behavior.
Steps to Take If You’re Being Harassed
Before you file a claim for sexual harassment, you have the responsibility to take certain steps within your workplace. Otherwise, your claim might be denied, leaving you no way to find justice.
The first thing you should do if you are experiencing harassment is torecord everything that happens. This means writing down the names of anyone involved, the offensive behaviors, whether a manager or supervisor addresses the harassment, and any other details of the situation. You should also keep track of your interactions with your manager and data points like performance reviews or advancement activities in case you face retaliation.
Anyone who is experiencing harassment mustmake it clear the offensive conduct is unwelcome before they are eligible to bring a claim. This does not necessarily mean directly confronting the harasser, though you may choose to do so. If confrontation is not an option, you may demonstrate through your behavior that you do not like or are uncomfortable with the harassing behavior.
If the harassment continues after you have made it clear it is unacceptable,employees have a duty to report it to one of the following individuals:
- Their supervisor OR, if the supervisor is involved in the harassment, that person’s boss
- Another management figure
- The company’s Fair Practices Officer
- The company’s Equal Employment Opportunity Officer
- The Office of Maryland’s Statewide Equal Opportunity Coordinator
At this point, if the harassment does not stop, you may be able to file a claim. Set up a confidential consultation with an attorney (be sure to bring your notes) to discuss your legal options.
Who Can File a Sexual Harassment Case?
Thanks to recent legislative action in Maryland,individuals can now file a sexual harassment claim if they are:
- An employee at a private company with at least 1 employee
- A public (government) employee
- An independent contractor working for an employer
- An unpaid intern working for an employer
For a long time, employers have attempted to quash claims of harassment and discrimination by requiring employees to arbitrate these claims rather than filing lawsuits. Some went so far as to include in their employment contracts a provision stating a worker would waive their right to report sexual harassment. Neither of these maneuvers are legal as of October 2018. If your employment contract or workplace policy includes any language to this effect,do get a copy to share with your lawyer, butdon’t let it deter you from making a claim.
Retaliation and Sexual Harassment Claims
Some employers illegally punish workers who take a stand against sexual harassment or other unlawful behaviors. If this happens to you, you might be able to recover additional damages in your claim.
Retaliation may take the form of:
- Decreased performance evaluations that have no basis in fact
- Increased scrutiny
- Undeserved reprimands or discipline
- Transfer to a less desirable position or schedule
- Removal from desirable duties
- Actions that make an employee’s work harder
- Verbal or physical abuse
- Spreading false rumors
- Reporting an employee to the authorities
Though most employees know better than to tell an employee they are facing consequences because they chose to report sexual harassment, if your decision to come forward coincides with this type of behavior, you may have reason to bring a claim. This is why we recommend you keep detailed notes about your job details, performance, and interactions with your boss. Being able to show a correlation between your actions and retaliatory measures is key to your claim.
Employees Deserve a Workplace Free of Sexual Harassment
Ashcraft & Gerel is dedicated to taking consequential cases that protect individuals against companies that act poorly. There is no excuse for workplace sexual harassment, and employers that oversee unfair workplaces or ignore mistreatment must be held accountable. If you have suffered physically or emotionally or been forced to leave your job because of sexual harassment, reach out to our team for help.
Thanks to our state’s new laws, you now have 3 years to file a lawsuit for sexual harassment. We are here to guide you through this process. Our team can take on as much of the work as you are comfortable with, handling procedural matters and preparing your case to be argued in front of a judge and jury. The more people who come forward about sexual harassment, the more all of us are protected from bad actors in the workplace. If you are ready to stand up against inappropriate behavior at your job, we have your back.