Representing Victims of Workplace Harassment for 65+ Years
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. It can take place against a man or woman and is sexual in nature and often—though not always—offensive in its approach. It is illegal under Washington, D.C. laws to make unwelcome sexual advances toward another person, request sexual favors in any way, or make sexually suggestive or explicit verbal comments or physical actions for any reasons when doing so would be considered unsolicited, unwelcome, or unwanted. Sexual harassment or discrimination can occur to anyone or by anyone, regardless of their race, nationality, sexual orientation, appearance, or religion. It can disrupt employment, working conditions, the ability to obtain an education, receive health and social services, or secure housing.
If you believe that you are being sexually harassed, contact the experienced Washington, D.C. sexual harassment attorneys at Ashcraft & Gerel. We have been fighting for victims for more than 65 years, and we are prepared to advocate for you, too.
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Types of Sexual Harassment
There are two types of sexual harassment to consider:quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile environment sexual harassment. Both offend the victim and most often occur in the workplace; however, recent campaigns have shined a spotlight on hostile environment sexual harassment taking place on the Metro.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment takes away a victim’s rights in relation to employment benefits. This form of sexual behavior or misconduct occurs from a harasser that is typically in a position of authority. They can be a manager, supervisor, or boss. Suffering harassment under these harassers’ abuse can affect a person’s ability to get a promotion or receive pay raises, or it could result in total job loss.
When job benefits are reduced as a result of sexual harassment, it is because the harasser is in a position of influence or authority. Because the victim of the abuse fails to submit or accept the sexual advances, suggestions, or comments from the offender, they could lose out on job opportunities that could have propelled their career forward.
Generally, in order for a situation to be deemedquid pro quo sexual harassment, it must be considered that if the victim were to accept the sexual suggestions of their manager they would advance in their career with a promotion, increase in pay, or the ability to keep their job. More favorable employment opportunities might have come a person’s way if they were to have accepted the sexual advances rather than if they rejected them or showed negative actions toward them.
In contrast, when hostile environment harassment occurs, it can make a victim’s workplace environment uncomfortable, hostile, or difficult to perform in. The actions of the aggressor may be sexual in nature and prevent the employee from performing in a capacity that is acceptable and required by their supervisor.
This type of sexual misconduct occurs by a co-worker, peer, supervisor, vendor, or customer. A victim of hostile environment harassment may be subjected to sexual advances, gestures that are sexual, and/or comments that are explicitly sexual or offensive to their gender or sexual orientation. This conduct is considered unwarranted by the victim but would not affect their ability to progress in their career with future employment benefits.
A hostile work environment can make it hard for a victim to work productively. It can affect their job performance and prevent them from completing their job duties as required. When claiming hostile work environment harassment, a victim must ensure the actions of the harasser were unwelcome, severe and frequent in nature, and unreasonable by all regards.
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Examples of Sexual Harassment
The circumstances and events surrounding sexual harassment vary and are different for each case and person. Sexual discrimination can take on many different forms and actions.
Some examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to:
- Sexual comments or verbal suggestions
- Inappropriate touching or physical contact
- Sexual jokes
- Images or material that is sexually explicit
- Email content that is sexually offensive
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Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment in D.C.
Employers are responsible for protecting and stopping sexual harassment when it occurs in the workplace environment. They can be found liable for the sexual misconduct and find themselves in a lawsuit as a result of not taking action or not taking reasonable action to stop the abuse.
Employers need to have a policy in place that outlines what is appropriate and not appropriate when it comes to sexual harassment. There are no laws governing the implementation of such a sexual harassment policy by employers, but it is recommended that they adopt one for their employees to follow as a best practice.
This can provide instruction on how to report sexual harassment or sexual discrimination when it occurs and what the necessary corrective measure will be. It can also put penalties in place for employees that are harassers and help to prevent the occurrence of this behavior in the workplace at all times. Employees will know this behavior is unacceptable and would, ideally, refrain from employing this misconduct. This can also allow victims of abuse to come forward with confidence, knowing that their employer will support them in their complaints and help to guide them to stop harassment from occurring to them.
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Laws Prohibiting Sexual Harassment in Washington, D.C.
Sexual harassment in Washington, D.C. is protected under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law protects all persons from discrimination based on their gender and sexual orientation. It also makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate when providing or taking away employee benefits or opportunities. Sexual harassment falls under this category as a form of sex discrimination, especially when it relates to the workplace environment.
In Washington, D.C., sexual harassment and sexual discrimination are also prohibited under Title VII of the law. Title VII applies to employers as well as the state and local government and all educational institutions. These organizations need to employ 15 employees or more to fall under the provisions of the law. Labor organizations and private and public agencies are also covered.
If an employer has less than 15 employees, it may not be necessary to report your sexual harassment complaint to the EEOC before taking legal action against your employer. A sexual harassment attorney in Washington, D.C. will be able to help you determine the necessary course of action.
Stopping Sexual Harassment
When a person suffers sexual harassment, the person just wants the harassment to stop. A victim needs to take the opportunity to make it clear to the aggressor that they want the sexual discrimination to stop.
In order to take proper legal action, a person that has been subjected to sexual misconduct needs to:
- Tell the harasser to stop in a clear and cohesive way
- Tell them no verbally and also in writing
- Report the sexual harassment to a supervisor or appropriate authority officer at the company
- File a complaint with the Office of Human Rights (OHR)
- Obtain the help of a sexual harassment attorney
Proving a Case of Sexual Harassment in Washington, D.C.
While the OHR will determine via an investigation whether sexual harassment actions did occur, it is the responsibility of the victim to provide evidence to support his/her claims. They have the burden of proof and will need proper documentation, as well as witnesses (if possible), to back up their accounts of sexual misconduct.
Evidence will need to come in the form of written records on each occurrence of sexual harassment. This will need to include the date, details of the act, and who performed the sexual misconduct. Witness accounts should also be documented, and any communications that occur with an employer need to be in writing, in order to create a record of evidence for your legal case.
A victim of sexual harassment in D.C. needs to remain cooperative with their employer and follow up with them to ensure that the proper measures are being taken to stop the actions of the harasser. The employer should also conduct a proper investigation into the victim’s complaint.
During the investigation by the employer or by the agency, all circumstances surrounding the sexual harassment complaint will be considered.
Additional factors that may be relevant to a case include:
- How frequent the sexual misconduct was
- How severe the sexual harassment was
- All context and actions surrounding the alleged incident
- Whether the harasser was told to stop and if they knew their advances were unwelcome
- How the effects of the sexual abuse have impacted the victim mentally, physically, and emotionally
- Whether the employer was informed for the discrimination and knew it was occurring
- What corrective actions were taken by the employer to remedy the situation
Complaint Process for Sexual Harassment in D.C.
To file a complaint against your employer for sexual harassment in Washington, D.C., you need to submit a written complaint in the form of an intake questionnaire to the OHR for the District of Columbia. The complaint needs to be filed within one year of the discriminatory incident or actions.
A victim’s claim will be processed by the OHR, and an intake appointment will be set within two to four weeks from the filing. If OHR doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case, another agency will supersede and the victim will be notified.
Following the intake interview, mediation will be used to help the victim and the employer come to a settlement resolution. In addition, an initial investigation will be held, which will typically occur within two to four weeks of the intake interview date.
If it is shown that OHR has failed in its attempts to provide mediation for the victim of sexual harassment with the employer, a full investigation will be conducted. This could take up to five months or even longer to complete, depending on the severity of the claims.
As part of the investigation, the OHR legal team will review the investigation file and create its determination on the situation at hand. A letter of determination will be issued by the Director of the OHR if they approve of the determination of the legal team.
An appeal can be made to the OHR on its determination if it is submitted within 15 days of the determination letter. Cases can be cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 15 days from the letter of determination. A petition for review may also be sent to the Superior Court.
If the OHR or EEOC can’t come to a reasonable settlement, the victim of sexual harassment may file a lawsuit against their harasser and employer. They can seek compensation for pain and suffering, as well as settlement compensation for their injuries.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Hiring a sexual harassment attorney can be beneficial to guide a victim through the legal process of filing a suit against his/her harasser or employer. It can ensure the victim has filed their claim within the necessary timelines as required by the law. A sexual harassment lawyer can also provide victims the assistance and support they need to negotiate a settlement if the agency is unable to do so. It can also determine what damages a victim is entitled to as a part of the settlement award and ensure they receive the maximum award allowable for the injuries from the discrimination.
When a victim hires a sexual harassment attorney; they are receiving a higher level of knowledge regarding Washington, D.C.’s sexual discrimination and harassment laws.
Clients can be assured that they will receive the following:
- Accurate and timely complaint filings with the appropriate agency for your case
- Legal advice specializing in sexual harassment
- Means to end the sexual discrimination that is occurring
- Guidance to proceed with a lawsuit against a harasser or employer
- Ability to secure a reasonable settlement
- Representation in all court proceedings
- Negotiations for your settlement and damages
Finding a Sexual Harassment Attorney in Washington, D.C.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the D.C. area, an attorney at Ashcraft & Gerel can help. Our knowledgeable and experienced sexual harassment attorneys can help you understand your rights. We can help you file your complaint and fight to get you the settlement you deserve for your abuse.