Archives for May 20, 2020

Is HR on Your Side When You Report Sexual Harassment?

Experiencing any kind of mistreatment at work can make one feel unsafe and devalued, and sexual harassment is no exception. Your company is legally obligated to prevent sexual harassment against employees and take steps to protect you from future abuse should you become a victim.

Your company may even have its own policies that go beyond the law, outlining how and to whom to report instances of sexual harasssment and what happens as a result. Despite laws and policies, however, an everyday reality for many people who experience sexual harassment at work is not being sure who they can turn to for help. Your company policy might direct you to report the issue to a supervisor or human resources (HR), but are the people who are tasked with managing conflict at work really on your side?

When It’s in the Company’s Best Interest

Because companies and their HR departments are made up of people with their own values and notions of justice thrown in to mix, it’s hard to paint all them all in a single shade of grey. That said, it would be fair to say that your company’s HR department has a vested interest in protecting the company. That means HR’s willingness to stick up for you when you report sexual harassment could come down to how well you could substantiate your claim in a lawsuit against the company.

It might sound a little cynical – especially for people with careers in HR who do want to help victims – but whether or not HR is on your side depends on the reality of whether it’s in the company’s best interest to be.

To compound matters, how seriously HR responds to sexual harassment reports can vary from company to company despite laws protecting employees. Also, as may be the case for smaller businesses, “HR” might not exist beyond a company owner or manager who wears that hat among many others – which can make reporting sexual harassment even more problematic if this person is the abuser or directly subordinate to them in another capacity.

That said, many companies have robust HR practices and policies that can react quickly to investigate reports and deliver solutions based upon their findings. The trouble with even this, however, is that offending employees may not be immediately removed from the workplace and left to target their victim in other ways or find a new individual to harass.

A similar result can occur when an HR investigation fails to corroborate a victim’s claims, leaving management free to drop the issue without taking action. In an even worse scenario, reporting to HR can cause a company to unlawfully target the victim for other kinds of unlawful mistreatment like discrimination or retaliation.

An Employment Lawyer Is Always on Your Side

Because of HR’s interest in protecting a company, it has an inherently dubious quality to it when it comes to handling sexual misconduct at work. If your company believes your claim could end up in costly litigation, HR might be more than willing to bend over backwards to help. If your claims are inconvenient for the company, they may be ignored or even result in other forms of mistreatment.

Whenever you experience sexual harassment at work, however, an employment law attorney is always on your side. At Haeggquist & Eck, LLP, we’ve advocated for employees who’ve experienced many kinds of mistreatment at work, sexual harassment chief among them. Whenever you experience something illegal happening to you at work, you can turn to our attorneys to help you work through your claim and get the best possible result.

Turning to an attorney first doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also follow your company’s policies for reporting sexual harassment. The best course of action, though, is to take advantage of a free consultation with our attorneys to discuss your specific situation and learn about which steps you should take next.

For more information about how Haeggquist & Eck, LLP can help, reach out to us online or call (619) 342-8000.

Sexual Harassment When You’re Working Away From the Office

Millions of Americans make their living mostly or entirely through remote work. Whether this means working from home or on the go, it’s a fact of life for many that they’ll almost never need to set foot into their employer’s office.

Despite a lack of physical proximity to coworkers and supervisors, however, misconduct such as sexual harassment can still harm employees. It’s a fact most don’t consider until the offender’s intentions become clear or an event is so abrasively apparent that it makes an employee feel unsafe even in his or her own home. Let’s examine what entails sexual harassment for workers under any circumstance and how they might apply to situations where an employee is working remotely.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

As a matter of law, sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that can occur as an isolated incident or be so frequent or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment. Physical examples of sexual harassment are rather obvious to many: unwanted touching such as grabbing, kissing, fondling, sexual assault, and other actions that involve any part of the offender’s body coming in contact with the survivor.

Because one is working remotely, it’s possible that he or she is experiencing none of these physical acts of sexual harassment. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s not taking place. There are plenty – if not more – ways a person can engage in acts of sexual harassment without ever touching the survivor.

Non-Physical Sexual Harassment Can Occur Anywhere

Whether it’s in the office or several time zones away, various forms of non-physical sexual harassment can occur without regard for physical proximity to the survivor.

Acts such as these can constitute sexual harassment:

  • Comments of any kind made in an email, instant message, text, or verbally over the phone about a person’s appearance or body as well as their real or perceived sexual activity (even if the recipient is not the subject of such comments)
  • Sexually explicit comments or jokes, even if made in passing or without a direct recipient
  • Requesting sexual favors, be they physical or non-physical (such as sending suggestive photographs and communications)
  • Sending sexually explicit or offensive images, including photographs, videos, drawings, etc.
  • Cyberstalking and other attempts to invade one’s privacy online

These are not the only ways someone may experience sexual harassment. As with most employment law violations, there may be unique situations that seem to fall into a gray area where it’s difficult if something crossed the line into sexual harassment. An employment law attorney can help you by learning about your situation and providing advice on how you can move forward.

Quid Pro Quo & Working From Home

When someone asks for a sexual favor in exchange for an employment perk (or to prevent adverse actions like firing) is known is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Latin for “this for that.” Quid pro quo is particularly pernicious because it involves a great deal of manipulation upon the receiving party.

While a sexual favor in this context would mean a physical sex act in most cases, remote workers could be survivors of this form of abuse, too. Requesting suggestive photographs or videos in exchange for a raise or career advancement may be enough to satisfy a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. Even requesting explicit text-based conversations or verbal ones over the phone in exchange for similar employment-related matters could qualify.

Get a Lawyer To Help You With Your Claim

If you’re working remotely and believe you are a survivor of sexual harassment from a coworker, supervisor, or another individual associated with your employer, reach out to Haeggquist & Eck, LLP for help. We are an employment law firm whose attorneys are highly experienced at handling employment law violations of all kinds. We often see sexual harassment cases come through our doors, and we have the experience and skill necessary to help you get the best possible result.

If you need legal assistance, take advantage of a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Contact Haeggquist & Eck, LLP online or call (619) 342-8000 to request a complimentary consultation today.

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