Sexual Harassment Claims


I think I am being sexually harassed at work, how do I prove it?


There are two theories of sexual harassment under which you can file a claim:
(1) quid pro quo, and
(2) hostile work environment. Both types of claims require you to present different kinds of evidence:


To prove a quid pro quo claim of sexual harassment, you must show each of the following:
1) that you were subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment in the form of sexual advances or requests for sexual favors;
2) that the harassment you complained of was based on your sex;
3) that your submission to the unwelcome advances was an express or implied condition for receiving job benefits or refusal of advances would result in termination; and
4) that your employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take remedial action.


To prove a hostile work environment claim of sexual harassment, you must show each of the following:
1) that you were subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment;
2) that the harassment you complained of was based on sex;
3) that the harassment complained of affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and
4) that your employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take remedial action.


What does "Quid Pro Quo" sexual harassment look like?


Quid pro quo literally means "something for something." Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor behaves in a way or demands action from an employee that forces an employee to decide between giving in to sexual demands or losing their job, losing job benefits or promotion, or otherwise suffering a tangible job detriment.


What does "Hostile Work Environment" sexual harassment look like?


If your workplace is infused with intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is severe or pervasive enough to create a seriously uncomfortable or abusive working environment, then you may have a claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment. The conduct must be severe enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile.


How do I show that this conduct affected my ability to work?


If your behavior has significantly changed, you have sought counseling, or you have been absent from work due to your uneasiness because of the harassment, you may be able to show that your ability to work was indeed affected.


How do I show that my employer knew what was going on?


Keep records! Note dates of harassment, specific language used, and ask other women if they are experiencing the same treatment. File a complaint through the proper channels at your work, and if none are provided, start documenting instances of harassment and go to your boss or your boss's supervisor if you feel that your harassment is severe. The more documentation and facts you have to back you up, the stronger your case will be.


Can I file a claim against my boss/supervisor under the WLAD?


Yes, if your boss was the perpetrator, you can file a claim against him for committing the harassment.


Can I bring a claim against my co-worker if he is not my boss or supervisor?


No. The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) does not apply to the situation where a co-worker, acting on their own behalf, harasses, threatens, or makes sexual advances toward another worker. In this scenario, your claim would be better argued under the theory of hostile work environment or against your employer for allowing the harassment to occur.


I complained to my employer and they reprimanded the harasser. Can I still file a claim?


If your harassment continued or worsened after your employer reprimanded the harasser and you notified your employer of the ongoing condition, you may still be eligible to file a claim as your employer is responsible for taking reasonable steps to end the harassment.


I reported to my employer, but they didn't do anything -- can I still file a claim?


If your employer failed to take appropriate action once it learned of your harassment, you may still be eligible to file a claim.


What if my harasser is also a woman?


Currently, Washington courts recognize same-sex sexual harassment claims only if you can show that you were harassed specifically because you are a woman.


Is one incident of sexual harassment sufficient basis for a claim?


One incident is rarely sufficient for a claim. Generally, one incident, unless extremely heinous, does not qualify as sexual harassment. The harassment must be sufficiently pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment.


Can I get damages for emotional distress?


Under some circumstances you may be able to recover damages for emotional distress. You are not required to show that your emotional distress was severe in order to recover damages. However, damages must be in proportion to the injury suffered.


What is the difference between sex discrimination and sexual harassment?


Sexual harassment is often a part of sex discrimination. Sex discrimination encompasses many types of discrimination including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay claims and disparate impact.


What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to their denials?


Your employer may try to deny your claim by alleging it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior. You can respond by demonstrating that your employer's allegations are pretextual, or unworthy of belief, with evidence that they have no basis in fact.



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