Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
If you have unfortunately been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you may have experienced a decline in your comfort or sense of safety at work, your productivity at work, your job satisfaction, and even your career advancement.
You don’t have to suffer in silence. Informing your workplace superiors about the harassment you have endured can be a good place to start. Alerting authorities and taking legal action against your perpetrator also allow you to hold your abuser responsible.
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Battling sexual harassment in the workplace can do debilitating harm if you do not report it. Seeking legal representation can help you gain the confidence you may need to hold your abuser accountable. At Bachus & Schanker law firm, our team of sexual assault lawyers is committed to defending you and other victims of sexual harassment. If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, you have options and resources. You do not have to go through this alone.
What Defines Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as any unwelcomed sexual behavior, advances, and physical or verbal conduct made by a coworker or workplace superior. This type of behavior takes on many forms but can include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other type of verbal or physical conduct that is for the sexual satisfaction of your harasser.
When this type of behavior occurs in the workplace, it is deemed workplace sexual harassment. While not often violent, pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace can lead to violence targeted at victims, on top of creating a hostile work environment.
This inappropriate physical and emotionally threatening and violent behavior can have devastating effects on your mental and emotional well-being. Sexual harassment can impact an individual both at work and at home. It affects men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses nationwide.
If you have suffered from sexual harassment in the workplace, you may have been shamed or blamed for the harassment happening in the first place. No matter your age, the way you dress, or your sexual orientation, it’s important to remember that you are not at fault for the harassment you have had to suffer.
Types Of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace takes on many forms, and you may have experienced one or several types. Understanding the type of sexual harassment you have endured will help you better prepare a civil case if you decide to take legal action against your abuser.
Physical Sexual Harassment
As the name suggests, this type of sexual harassment is physical in nature. It can include but is not limited to the following behaviors:
- An abuser making physical sexual advances towards you
- Being the victim of inappropriate touching or groping
- Your abuser may pull at your clothing in a suggestive or inappropriate manner
- Any other physical advances that inappropriately violate you physically
Verbal Sexual Harassment
If you have had to endure unwanted verbal sexual advances in the workplace, then you were a victim of verbal sexual harassment. This type of harassment is not physical in nature but can lead to physical sexual harassment. If you’ve been verbally sexually harassed at work, you have likely been subjected to one or more of the following:
- Name-calling that is sexually suggestive in nature
- Sexual noises and sounds aimed at you
- Being on the receiving end of unsolicited sexually charged texts, phone calls, voicemails, and emails
- Any other non-physical contact from your abuser that is sexually charged and unwelcomed
Nonverbal Sexual Harassment
If you have felt unease at the presence of a co-worker or superior because of sexually charged gestures they make toward you, then you were the victim of non-verbal sexual harassment in the workplace. You may have experienced this type of harassment if you have had a co-worker or superior do any of the following:
- Makes sexually suggestive looks at you
- Makes sexually explicit gestures at you
- Sends you pornographic images or other sexually charged images
What’s The Difference Between Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, And Sexual Misconduct?
You may feel overwhelmed and confused about the different terminologies associated with the misconduct you have experienced at work. While there is overlap, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct are all unique experiences that a victim may face. Understanding their differences will better help you when you contact law enforcement or take legal action.
Sexual misconduct is a broader term that describes a variety of behaviors you may face at the hands of a harasser. These behaviors are unwarranted, inappropriate, and sexual in nature. Under the umbrella of sexual misconduct is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is used to define the relentless, targeted, and sexually charged harassment a perpetrator might inflict on you.
Examples of sexual misconduct can include but are not limited to the following behaviors of a coworker or superior:
- Coercion or demand of sexual favors in return for a pay raise, a good performance review, or other work-related incentives
- Being consistently asked out on a date even if you have said no
- Being subjected to belittling comments or name-calling based on your sexual orientation, appearance, choice of clothing, etc
- Being on the receiving end of emails from other workers that contain sexually driven language, images, or jokes
- Unwanted touches, rubs, or caresses
Sexual harassment can leave you feeling powerless, fearful, and uncomfortable. As with every victim of sexual harassment, the way you behave, dress, or speak is not to blame for the harassment. Perpetrators often select a specific target based on their own skewed preferences and harass their victims in a manner that allows them to seek sexual pleasure, control, or power.
Examples of sexual harassment can be wide-ranging. However, common examples can include the following:
- Receiving unwanted, inappropriate images, emails, jokes, or videos from a coworker or superior
- Being subjected to sexual gestures directed at you or other co-workers
- Unwanted hugs, shoulder massages, kissing, and other inappropriate touching or being “accidentally” brushed up upon
- Catcalling, whistling, and other sexually suggestive name-calling
- Being asked about your personal sex life or sexual activity/preferences
- Looking a person up and down
- Blocking a person’s walking path or walkway
- Asking questions of a sexual nature
If your harasser has physically acted upon their unwanted advances, then an assault has taken place. A sexual assault is when a perpetrator physically assaults, abuses, or otherwise comes in contact with their victim in a manner that is sexually charged, inappropriate, and done for the perpetrator’s own sexual gratification. While not always the case, sexual assaults can be forced and violent. If this has happened to you, please remember it is not your fault.
Examples of sexual assault can include:
- Being forced to engage in a sexual act
- Being coerced into a sexual assault by guilting, threatening, or manipulative behavior
- Being the victim of forcible penetration at the hands of your abuser
- Engaging in sexual acts after being forced to consume drugs, alcohol, or any other substance that impairs your ability to consent to sexual behavior
- Being subjected to an abuser exposing him or herself to you
- Being subjected to an abuser masturbating in your presence and other violations of common indecent exposure laws
As with all victims of sexual assault, you are not to blame for your assault, no matter the circumstances. Sexual abusers revel in being able to make their victims feel powerless. Speaking up about your abuse, reporting your abuser, and taking legal action is the best way to dismantle whatever satisfaction your abuser may feel entitled to.
Employers’ Legal Obligations To Prevent Sexual Harassment
Employers have an obligation to protect their workers from workplace sexual harassment. If you feel uncomfortable reporting the sexual harassment to your boss or HR department, you can contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a complaint.
As part of an employer’s obligation to keep you safe and protected while you are at work, they must implement safeguards and take the necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the first place. If harassment does occur, employers must have procedures in place in order to promptly and effectively address the sexual harassment and reprimand responsible parties.
In addition to having policies and procedures in place, employers must also provide training to all employees on how to recognize and prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace.
What Colorado State Laws Protect Against Sexual Harassment?
Both Colorado state laws and federal laws exist to protect employees against sexual harassment while they are in the workplace
Under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), workers are entitled to equal access in the workplace. This means that employers and other workers are prohibited from harassing an employee based on that employee’s sex or sexual orientation. If an employer violates this law, victims can file a formal complaint against their employer.
At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 further protects individuals from sexual harassment in the workplace.
At Bachus & Schanker, our Employment Law Lawyers can help you navigate the complexities of these laws as you seek restitution for the workplace sexual harassment you have endured.
What Should You Do If You Are Sexually Harassed At Work?
If you have suffered sexual harassment at work, it is important to take action. Knowing what to do after an incident can help you stop the harassment as quickly as possible and hold your harasser accountable.
- The first step is to report the harassment to your employer or HR representative. You should also document the harassment by keeping a record of the date, time, and nature of the harassment.
- If your employer does not take appropriate action to address the harassment, or if you fear telling your employer because of fear of retaliation, you may need to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can also turn to the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) to file a complaint.
- If your harasser has sexually assaulted you or initiated violence against you, you should alert your local authorities as well. Contacting your local authorities allows you to pursue criminal action against your abuser.
- You may also want to consider speaking with an attorney who can advise you on your legal rights and options. The sexual assault lawyers at Bachus & Schanker understand the complexities of navigating state and federal laws as they pertain to sexual harassment in the workplace. Additionally, our legal team is committed to working with and defending victims of sexual harassment. Our years of experience can help you seek the restitution and justice you deserve.
How To Prove Workplace Sexual Harassment
Depending on your circumstances, where you work, and the type of harassment you are facing, it can be difficult to prove sexual harassment. First, we believe you and are sorry you have had to experience it. There are steps you can take to strengthen your case, though, to hold your abuser accountable.
One of the most important things you can do is to document the harassment by keeping a record of the date, time, and nature of the harassment. If there were any witnesses to the harassment, take down a witness statement from them as well.
You should also keep any emails, text messages, or other communications that are related to the harassment, as this will prove your perpetrator’s guilt.
Who May Be Liable For Workplace Sexual Harassment?
First and foremost, your harasser can be held liable both criminally and civilly for the sexual harassment they have inflicted on you. Because of this, you can seek restitution from your harasser.
If your employer, company, or any other third party knew that the sexual harassment was occurring and did not take action to stop it, they could also be held liable for any restitution you seek.
How Much Time Do I Have To File A Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim In Colorado?
Like most claims, there is a statute of limitations regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. In Colorado, you must file your charge within 180 or 300 days of the last instance of harassment.
All sexual harassment cases are unique. Because of this, your case may fall under another statute of limitations as well. Take, for example, if your sexual harassment turns violent and you have suffered a personal injury. Speaking with an attorney who has extensive knowledge about the nuances of sexual harassment cases can help you better understand what statute of limitations you are bound by.
What Restitution Can You Receive In A Sexual Harassment Claim?
When you file a sexual harassment claim, you may be able to seek restitution in the form of compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are designed to pay you back for any medical bills or medical treatments you have had to endure because of your sexual harassment. If you have been unable to return to work because of the harassment, you can also seek restitution in the form of lost wages and even loss of earning capacity.
As with many victims, much of the harm done during sexual harassment comes in the form of mental and emotional trauma. If you have had to seek out services from mental health professionals, you can hold your harasser responsible for these bills and any other ongoing mental health support you need in the future. Additionally, as a victim, you are entitled to restitution for your pain and suffering.
Compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages are designed to help support victims who have faced abuse that has caused them physical and mental harm.
What If An Employee Is An Undocumented Worker?
If you are an undocumented worker, you still have rights and protections under the law. In addition to having the right to be paid fairly for the work you do, you have the right to be protected against sexual harassment in the workplace.
If you have been victimized by an employee or boss at work and you fear retaliation because of your immigration status, you have rights and options. Working with an experienced employment law attorney can help you understand them.
Why Work With A Sexual Harassment Attorney?
Seeking the guidance of a workplace sexual harassment lawyer can help you put an end to the harassment, hold your harasser accountable, and fight for the restitution and justice you deserve. Please do not let fear, intimidation, or self-doubt stand in your way of holding your abuser accountable. More importantly, don’t let it stand in the way of seeking the healing you deserve.
Colorado Civil Rights Division. (2023).
Colorado Indecent Exposure Laws. (2023).
Compensatory damages. (2023).
Legal Rights of Undocumented Workers. (2023).
Sexual Harassment at Work. (2023).
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Written and Legally Reviewed By: Kyle Bachus
4.6 ★★★★★ 1,461 Google Reviews
Kyle is a member of the Colorado and Florida Bar associations and has served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for more than twenty years in total. Over the years, Kyle has achieved justice for many clients. He has served on numerous committees and repeatedly won recognition from his peers at both the state and national level. He is proud of the role he has played in the passage of state and national legislation to protect consumers and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer.