St. Louis, MO Sexual Harassment Attorneys
Workplace sexual harassment can turn one’s personal and professional life into a nightmare. As a victim, you cannot ignore your harasser or accept their behavior, but you should not let the fear of losing your job or being judged prevent you from taking action. There are state and federal laws in force against sexual harassment in Missouri, and their purpose is to protect people like you.
The first step towards ending the difficult situation you are in is to find out what your rights and legal options are. Obviously, the easiest way to do this would be to contact a Missouri sexual harassment lawyer. If you have not decided to contact one yet, or you think you do not need one, the following lines should provide at least some of the information you need in order to figure out your rights and options.
The Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment in Saint Louis, MO
The federal law defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to businesses, organizations, and institutions (including government agencies, labor organizations, and employment agencies) counting minimum 15 employees.
The Missouri Human Rights Act, applying to employers with minimum six employees, also sanctions sex discrimination, including sexual harassment. The Act forbids local and state governments, employment agencies, “temp services,” labor organizations, landlords, realtors, property managers, lenders, manufacturers, retailers, and any other entity offering products or services to the general public to deny or refuse to serve persons based on their gender.
Both the federal law and the Missouri Human Rights Act describe sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, sexual favors requests, and any physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature implicitly or explicitly affecting someone’s employment, interfering with their work performance, or creating a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.
When the harasser is an agent of the victim’s employer, their supervisor, a co-worker, someone threatens to prevent them from obtaining the job, the promotion, or the benefits they want and/or deserve, the authorities call it quid pro quo harassment.
When the harasser intimidates and offends the employee, prevents them from doing their job, and disturbs them with sexually related behavior and attitude, the authorities call it hostile work environment harassment. This is the most commonly encountered form of sexual harassment in Missouri, but also the most challenging to prove.
Gender-based harassment is another type of sexual harassment that has a lot in common with hostile work environment harassment. Instead of explicit sexual behavior, it involves the use of slurs, epithets, and negative stereotyping. However, these end up creating a hostile work environment.
The victims of sexual harassment in Saint Louis can be both men and women and can have the same sex as their harasser. Behaviors qualifying as sexual harassment are: sexual advances, unwanted touching, sexual jokes, comments about clothes or body parts, workplace posting of sexually suggestive material (photos or texts), etc.
Anyone affected by the offensive conduct can be a victim, even if they are not the target of the harassment, but simple witnesses. Economic injury or employment discharge is not a condition for a sexual harassment case. Retaliating against someone who complains or takes action in a case of sexual harassment is illegal as well.
Therefore, you don’t have to, and shouldn’t tolerate workplace sexual harassment, no matter where you work, who the harasser is, or what measures they can take against you. The law is on your side; you just need to take action and fight for your rights.
Fighting Sexual Harassment in Missouri
Here are the steps you should take, as a victim of sexual harassment:
- Face Your Harasser and Speak Up
Perhaps your reactions to your harasser’s behavior haven’t been clear enough. They could be thinking it is all a joke, a “colleagues’ thing,” especially if other people working in the same environment find it acceptable. If you make it clear that you don’t like and tolerate such behavior, they might stop. If they do not stop, warn them that you’ll notify their superiors.
Don’t be afraid to speak up, and even record the conversation if you can. If your harasser understands and corrects their behavior, the torment ends, and you can continue with your work. If they don’t, you’ll have evidence and witnesses to support your case when you file a complaint about sexual harassment with your employer, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Check Your Employer’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Follow It
According to a study at the University of Missouri (Individual Gender Perceptions of Sexual Harassment Can Influence Workplace Policy Effectiveness), although 98% of the organizations in the state have strict policies against sexual harassment, the number of sexual harassment cases is still high, as employees tend to misinterpret those policies.
Just because your harasser takes advantage of their position within the company to pressure you into accepting their behavior and request sexual favors, it does not mean the company’s management accepts such behavior. They might have detailed procedures for submitting and handling sexual harassment claims, so you’ll only need to find out what these are and follow them.
If there are no dedicated policies in place, simply complain to you or your harasser’s immediate supervisor, and, if necessary, follow the entire chain of command. The idea is to notify the company’s management of the wrongful behavior of one of their employees, and of how this behavior negatively affects the work environment. Remember to keep records of your complaints, harassment episodes, date, time, words or gestures, witnesses, etc.
- Consult a Lawyer with Experience in Sexual Harassment in Missouri
If the above measures paid no results, it is time to take legal action. Consulting a lawyer could be of great help at this point. After hearing your story and analyzing the evidence you have, they can help you decide on the next steps to follow and tell you what to expect.
At Krause & Kinsman, we offer free case reviews, and we only charge our clients if we recover money on their behalf. All you need to do in order to have one of our sexual harassment attorneys review your case and provide you personalized legal advice is to schedule a preliminary consultation.
No matter if you decide to hire legal representation or take matters into your own hands, the steps to follow are basically the same. They involve filing a sexual harassment complaint and taking the case to court if the complaint is not resolved. You’ll find them detailed below. Just keep in mind that while the bureaucracy, the investigations, and the waiting times will be overwhelming for you, they are mere routine for an experienced lawyer.
Victims of sexual harassment in Saint Louis willing to take legal action can file a complaint either under the Missouri Human Rights Act, or under the federal law, depending on the specifics of their case, and the number of employees of the companies for which they work.
The deadline for filing a complaint under the Missouri Human Rights Act is of 180 days from the harassment. The complaint should be addressed to the Missouri Human Rights Commission, who will investigate the facts brought to their attention. Before filing a complaint, the plaintiff has to answer a series of questions (up to 4) meant to help the commission determine whether or not the case falls under their jurisdiction (Discrimination Complaint Assessment).
The deadline for filing a complaint about sexual harassment under federal law is 300 days. The authority investigating any complaints is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When investigating complaints related to sexual harassment in Missouri and anywhere in the U.S., the commission analyzes all the facts, records, circumstances, etc. That is why confronting your harasser and complaining about their behavior with the employer could help you build a stronger case.
Sometimes, the commission investigating the case determines that the complaint is justified, but cannot resolve it. When this happens, they issue a Right to Sue Letter that will let you take your case to civil court and claim compensation for the financial losses and physical and emotional injuries inflicted by the harassment. The compensatory damages can cover, according to each case:
- Job reinstatement
- Any lost wages or missed raises
- Lost benefits fringe
- Emotional distress damages
- A formal requirement for the employer to enforce adequate policies against workplace sexual harassment and even organize employee training sessions
- The attorney’s fees, court costs, and other expenses incurred before and during the trial.
As mentioned above, the services of a Krause & Kinsman lawyer to represent you in a sexual harassment claim in Saint Louis MO are free if they do not recover money on your behalf. This is our way of showing you how committed to defending your rights we are. Free or not, our services will bring you numerous and valuable benefits.
Just think of what filing the complaint and facing the investigations by yourself would mean! You would have to share your story with complete strangers, invest invaluable time and effort, deal with paperwork, and face the judgmental and condemning attitude of many work colleagues. Are you really up to it?
The alternative is to have a sexual harassment Missouri lawyer on your side at all times. They will prepare you for the upcoming formalities; they will handle the paperwork in your place, answer any questions you may have, negotiate settlement terms on your behalf, and protect you against any retaliations. They can be your shield against your harasser and anyone who takes their side.
At Krause & Kinsman, we have handled hundreds of cases of sexual harassment in Missouri, so we understand all your fears and concerns. Bring your case to us, and we will help you keep your situation confidential and take action against anyone harassing you or creating a hostile environment at your workplace! We will help you receive the compensation you deserve for your financial losses, professional damages, and physical and emotional suffering.