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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

What are the legal elements of a sexual harassment case?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2023 | Sexual Harassment |

Pushing back against workplace sexual harassment is often an intimidating idea. Even those who know they cannot continue to turn a blind eye to a toxic culture or a supervisor’s inappropriate behavior may worry about endangering not only their current employment but their future career prospects.

Although technically employer retaliation is illegal after someone reports sexual harassment, many workers still report a change in the attitude that their employer has toward them after they speak up about workplace misconduct. Therefore, it’s typically in the best interests of the affected workers to ensure that they take the appropriate steps and that their case needs all the necessary elements for a viable sexual harassment claim.

They need to be at a large enough company

If someone only works with three people and there are no other employees at the company, the worker will likely have limited options for fighting back against sexual harassment. Unfortunately, the most protective federal statutes for workers experiencing sexual harassment only apply to companies with 15 or more employees.

They need proof of quid pro quo harassment or a hostile environment

There are typically two kinds of sexual harassment that are actionable, and some scenarios may involve both. Workers subject to unwanted advances and attempt sexual exploitation may have experienced quid pro quo harassment. Those that have to endure inappropriate comments or mistreatment from their coworkers may have endured a hostile work environment. Employees typically need documentation of what they have experienced if they hope to take action against the company.

They need to alert the employer in most cases

Before someone can bring a complaint to the relevant government agencies or file a lawsuit in court, they typically first need to advise the employer of the issue. If companies fail to investigate or take action after complaints of sexual harassment, then the worker may be in a situation where they can take legal action.

The three main legal elements of a sexual harassment claim include establishing that certain laws apply, demonstrating that workplace harassment occurred and establishing that the company failed to stop or prevent that harassment. Evaluating whether a situation meets the necessary standards for the sexual harassment claim can help a worker determine what step to take next.