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Employees have the right to be free from harassment in the workplace and employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe working environment. This means they have a responsibility to help create an environment free from sexual harassment. If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment, you may be able to obtain compensation for any damages or losses you have suffered. It can be difficult to investigate and prove a sexual harassment claim without an experienced attorney by your side. The Vancouver employment lawyers at Rizk Law are well-versed in federal and state sexual harassment laws and how to apply any of these laws to the specifics of your case.

Learn more about your rights and the legal options available to you during a free consultation. There is no risk or obligation for you to proceed with legal representation. If you do decide to move forward, our firm will work tirelessly to take prompt and effective action against the at-fault party and pursue the justice and fair compensation you deserve.

Call us now at 503.245.5677 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is a problem that must be taken seriously. It can significantly reduce productivity, increase turnover and greatly affect the safety and well-being of employees. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under federal and state statutes prohibiting employee discrimination. 

Federal Law

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 strictly prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex, race, and religion, among other factors. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination under the law. Title VII is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and applies to employers with 15 or more employees, employment agencies and most unions.

According to the EEOC, sexual harassment can include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other physical and verbal advances that are sexual in nature. This type of harassment can also happen in a variety of circumstances, such as:

  • The harasser may be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer or a co-worker
  • The victim and/or harasser may be a man or a woman, but the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcomed by the victim
  • The victim does not have to be the person being harassed; just someone affected by the offensive conduct
  • The victim may experience unlawful sexual harassment without suffering economic damages or being discharged from his or her employment

State Law

Washington State also prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, which includes sexual harassment as outlined in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) chapter 49.60. RCW 49.60.180 says it is an unfair practice for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, which includes sexual harassment. The Washington State Human Rights Commission is in charge of enforcing state laws based on acts of discrimination toward employees.

As of June 7, 2018, Washington State has also enacted new laws to protect victims of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. These include:

  • SB 5996 – This law prohibits employers from demanding employees sign a nondisclosure agreement, waiver or other form of documentation that prevents the employee from speaking out against sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees have a right to publicly discuss sexual harassment at work, at work-related functions or to another employee.
  • SB 6313 – This law helps to preserve an employee’s right to publicly file a complaint or cause of action for sexual harassment. It also voids any provisions or agreements made by the employer that would try to force employees to waive their rights.
  • SB 6471 – This law requires the Human Rights Commission to put together a work group to develop best practices and model policies to keep workplaces free from sexual harassment and without fear or retaliation or loss of status or employment opportunities. 

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, it in your best interest to contact a Vancouver employment lawyer as soon as possible. We can help you understand your rights and your legal options. When employers commit unlawful actions, they should be held accountable.

Fill out a Free Case Evaluation form so we can get started on your case.

Forms of Sexual Harassment

There are two forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. These are known as hostile work environment sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Hostile Work Environment

Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when you become the target of unwelcome sexual or demeaning comments, repeated and unwelcome requests to go out together, offensive gestures, inappropriate touching, making jokes of a sexual nature, intimidating behaviors or sharing pornographic materials. This type of harassment is serious and consistent enough to interfere with your ability to perform your work duties and must be directed at you based on your gender.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when sexual favors are asked for or demanded by your supervisor or manager in exchange for employment benefits. These benefits can include a promotion, a raise and other career development opportunities. Not cooperating can cause you to be punished at work or lose your job entirely. Your gender status is not the only reason you are being targeted, but it must be at least a substantial factor.

Call Rizk Law 503.245.5677 now for a free consultation.

Employer’s Responsibilities Regarding Sexual Harassment

In Washington State, employers may be held liable for sexual harassment if they directly participated in the harassment or knew or should have reasonably known of the harassment and failed to take prompt and effective action to eliminate the problem.

Employers are responsible for adapting and enforcing policies related to sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. This includes providing training for all employees, managers and agents to educate them on the type of conduct that is considered sexual harassment and how the employer will adequately respond to complaints about such conduct.

An employer must develop policies and procedures that are designed to prevent sexual harassment from occurring and monitor and enforce those rules. There must also be clear procedures for how to report complaints of sexual harassment. It is the responsibility of the employer to thoroughly investigate any complaint of sexual harassment and take effective action to stop further harassment from taking place.

Our employment attorneys in Vancouver understand that compensation cannot change what happened, but hopefully it can help you start to move forward with your life after your rights were violated.

Complete a Free Case Evaluation form today.

Filing a Sexual Harassment or Assault Claim

If you have experienced sexual harassment or observed another employee being harassed, you should immediately report the incident to management or the human resources department. You can also report the sexual harassment to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office or the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

Under federal law, any victim of sexual harassment can file a complaint with the EEOC. Typically, you must file a charge within 180 days from the date the discrimination occurred. In Washington State, the standard deadline is extended to 300 days because sexual harassment is also covered under state law.

The EEOC during or after conducting a detailed investigation may try to help both parties reach a settlement. If it is found that illegal sexual harassment took place, the EEOC can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the victim or issue a “right-to-sue” notice which allows the victim to file a private lawsuit in civil court.

A Vancouver employment lawyer can help ensure that your claim is filed with the deadline so you do not lose the chance to pursue compensation for the damages you have suffered, including the harm to your career.

We look forward to helping you. Call 503.245.5677.

Contact a Vancouver Employment Lawyer Today

Have you suffered sexual harassment or assault in the workplace?

As an employee, you may be able to hold your employer liable under federal and state law for violating your rights. You may also be entitled to damages to recover related out-of-pocket-expenses, mental anguish, emotional distress, medical expenses, past and future lost wages, job reinstatement or restoration of job benefits.

At Rizk Law, our Vancouver employment lawyers can review your case and determine your legal options during a risk-free, no obligation consultation. If you have a valid claim, we can conduct a thorough workplace investigation to help you build a strong case.

Complete our online form now or call 503.245.5677.