Nashville Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Being sexually harassed in the workplace is incredibly uncomfortable. You feel violated. You feel pressured. You may even feel frightened. But you’ve got rights. If you’re being sexually harassed at work, the trusted Nashville harassment attorneys at the Employment and Commerce Law Group can help in cases like sexual harassment.
Workplace sexual harassment can take many forms. It may be unwelcome sexual requests or sexual behavior of any kind. Sexual harassment also includes when supervisors and managers withhold certain workplace benefits in exchange for sexual favors or retaliate against employees who refuse sexual advances.
Anyone can be the victim of sexual harassment. Don’t let the offenders get away with such inappropriate conduct. At the Employment and Commerce Law Group, we’ll enforce your rights and help you return to a comfortable workplace environment again.
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What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?
In Tennessee, sexual harassment occurs when a person makes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal, written, electronic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Managerial sexual harassment happens when a supervisor is behaving inappropriately. This may happen when a manager tries to persuade a worker to perform sexual favors by promising a work-related benefit or promotion. Conversely, the request could come as a threat, in which a supervisor declares that the employee will be fired or retaliated against if he or she does not comply with a sexual request. Even threatening to take such action can constitute workplace sexual harassment, even if the threat is never carried out.
In many cases, workplace sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment. Tennessee law defines a hostile work environment as subjecting a victim to severe or pervasive comments based on sex and other protected characteristics. This behavior results in a work environment that a reasonable person would think was hostile. Proving a hostile work environment is not necessary for a sexual harassment complaint to be considered valid.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
There are certain types of workplace conduct that are quite obviously sexual harassment. This includes unwanted touching of genitals and breasts, unwanted kissing, slaps on the buttocks, requests for sexual favors, unwelcome massages, catcalls, ogling, sexually suggestive gestures, and rape.
Although the obvious forms of sexual harassment occur in the workplace, there are forms of harassment that are much more subtle. These types of behaviors include:
- Regular compliments of an employee’s appearance
- Complimenting the attractiveness of one employee in front of other employees
- Openly discussing a person’s sexual activity in front of an employee or employees
- Asking an employee about their sex life
- Distributing sexually explicit photos around the workplace, such as women in bikinis or men without shirts
- Telling sexual jokes
- Sending sexually suggestive emails or text messages
- Giving someone gifts that are of a romantic or sexual nature when the gifts are not wanted
- Spreading or starting rumors of a sexual nature about an employee
- Regular and subtle unwanted touching, such as hugging or continuously placing a hand on an employee’s back
When any of these actions create a hostile work environment, it’s likely that the behavior is considered sexual harassment. In order for a hostile environment to be present, a reasonable person must also consider the environment hostile. For example, if a man complimented a woman’s new haircut, that likely is not sexual harassment because a reasonable person would not consider that the action, taken alone, as a hostile act.
Because sexual harassment is not always overt, it can be difficult for workers to know if their experience meets the legal standard for sexual harassment in Tennessee. The trusted Nashville attorneys at the Employment and Commerce Law Group can meet with you in a free and confidential consultation. Our Nashville Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyer will listen to your story and explain your legal rights and options.
Steps to Take After Being Sexually Harassed at Work
Dealing with sexual harassment is frustrating and stressful. Victims feel a range of emotions including anger, shame, guilt, and more. Many victims do not know what to do about it or worry that doing something will cost them their jobs. That is untrue. There are many steps you can take if you feel that you are being sexually harassed at work, such as:
- Documenting any type of quid pro quo behavior: One type of sexual harassment in Tennessee is known as quid pro quo. This means receiving something in return for something else. In the case of sexual harassment, it means receiving a promotion, raise, or other benefit in exchange for sexual favors. Anyone experiencing this behavior should document when it happened, where it happened, what was asked of them, and what was offered.
- Keeping records of actions that created a hostile work environment: There are many behaviors that can create a hostile work environment and do not necessarily require a quid pro quo offer or arrangement. A hostile work environment may be created when someone continuously touches the victim, is constantly told that their sex is inferior, is subjected to continual sexual comments, or when one person treats members of a certain sex differently than others. Keep track of this behavior by including writing down the time, date, and content of what was said, as well as if there were witnesses. Document whether this behavior is happening to anyone else.
- Keeping the documentation in a safe place: Do not keep your notes on your work computer or in your desk. Not only could someone else find the notes and potentially destroy them, but if you are fired, you also will no longer be able to access them.
- Collecting evidence: Unfortunately, your own notes may not be enough to prove a sexual harassment case. You also need evidence. This evidence can come in the form of emails, texts, notes, or cards that were sent to you. Make sure to print e-mails rather than store them in a computer folder. You never know when files could get deleted. Once printed, keep this evidence in a safe place.
- Reporting the harassment: You need to report the sexual harassment in accordance with your workplace policy and grievance system. This will give the company a chance to address the issue with the offender. If the harasser is your employer or supervisor, report it to the human resources department. Your employer does not have to fire the harasser, but they do have to make sure it stops. Once the company knows about the harassment, they can be held strictly liable if steps aren’t taken to stop it.
- Filing a complaint with the EEOC: It is an important next step to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This will protect you in the event that your employer retaliates against you for reporting the harassment. Although it does not necessarily mean that your employer will not retaliate, it provides a way to take action if they do. In Tennessee, you have 300 days from the date of retaliation to file this complaint.
- Speaking to an experienced Tennessee sexual harassment lawyer: There are many procedures that must be followed before a sexual harassment lawsuit can be filed. An attorney can outline what your options are and help you take the action that is right for you and your case.
- Leaving if you need to: No one should ever be run out of the workplace by sexual harassment. But nor should you subject yourself to an environment that makes you feel unsafe or unprotected. Remember that you always have the option to leave when you are ready to do so and can contact an attorney afterwards.
Tennessee Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws
The laws in Tennessee surrounding sexual harassment are outlined in the Tennessee Human Rights Act. This act states that sexual harassment is defined as any discriminatory act based on someone’s sex.
The Tennessee Human Rights Commission uses the federal regulations that define sexual harassment in the workplace. These laws define sexual harassment as:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
Any other conduct of a sexual nature that suggests certain conduct is a condition of employment, that rejection or submission to certain sexual conduct is a basis for employment decisions, or the conduct is so pervasive it creates a hostile work environment
Both women and men can be victims of sexual harassment. Around 17 percent of sexual harassment charges are made by men, according to EEOC data.
Can You Sue for Sexual Harassment at Work?
Like other wrongful acts, it is possible for victims to file a sexual harassment lawsuit. Through a lawsuit, you can claim certain damages and losses you have suffered as a result of the harassment. These damages can include medical expenses to treat any physical injury you sustained, costs associated with looking for a new job if you had to leave a hostile work environment, and mental anguish or loss of enjoyment of life, which is something many people experience after being a victim of sexual harassment.
If an employer’s behavior was particularly malicious (e.g., he or she explicitly refused to do anything about the harassment), you may also be entitled to punitive damages. Whether the damages sought in a lawsuit are punitive or compensatory, there are limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded in Tennessee. Your sexual harassment lawyer will be able to help determine the potential value of your case during your case review.
When to Contact a Nashville Sexual Harassment Lawyer
If you are being sexually harassed at work, it is best to speak to a Nashville attorney as soon as possible, even before you report it to your superior. An attorney can help you determine which person you should report it to, which is especially helpful when the person harassing you is your supervisor or employer. A lawyer will also help you outline your arguments, including when the harassment occurred and what was said or what action was taken. This can help if you become nervous when speaking to your supervisor or manager, as many people do.
A skilled attorney can also help you collect evidence pertaining to the harassment. A lawyer can advise on what types of evidence to collect, such as texts and emails, and anything else that could help prove your case.
During the investigation phase, an attorney can also check in with you regularly to determine if your employer is taking the appropriate steps to stop the harassment. If not, a sexual harassment lawyer can help you file a complaint with the EEOC and advise on what further action to take.
It is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for reporting sexual harassment. But it does happen. Some forms of retaliation are obvious, such as when an employer fires you or writes you up for making a report. Other times, retaliation is less obvious. An employer may exclude you from important meetings, remove you from projects you had been working on for a long time, or even prohibit you from going to social events, such as an office holiday party. A lawyer can help identify these types of retaliation and make sure those issues are addressed as part of your case.
Standing Up for Victims of Tennessee Sexual Harassment
Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is immensely difficult, but that you don’t have to deal with it alone. At the Employment and Commerce Law Group, our Nashville employment lawyers understand what a sensitive situation you are in. We will provide the legal advice you need and help you take action to resolve your problems at work. If you have been sexually harassed, contact us online right away.