As there are just as many women as men in today’s jobs, sexual harassment in the workplace is a huge issue in Charleston and across the country. Sexual harassment isn’t just limited to women; it can occur toward both sexes. Therefore, employees and employers alike should be aware of what constitutes sexual harassment and what doesn’t.
Sexual Harassment Info Center
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As there are just as many women as men in today’s jobs, sexual harassment in the workplace is a huge issue in Charleston. Sexual harassment isn’t just limited to women; it can occur toward both sexes. Therefore, employees and employers alike should be aware of what constitutes sexual harassment and what doesn’t with Charleston.
Sexual harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act put in place in 1964. Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination, also including on basis of race, color, national origin, and religion. This title protects men, women, and children from being discriminated against (prevented from employment opportunities on the basis of gender), but also protects from sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual Harassment in Charleston
According to the United States Equal Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is defined as, “unwelcome sexual
advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” This also includes general remarks against a person’s gender, i.e. snide comments on all women (or men).
Another aspect of sexual harassment is the “accidental” touching of the body of someone of the opposite sex. For example, someone squeezes by you in a tight storage room, accidentally brushing against you. Once is truly an accident, but repeated occurrences of this behavior could be considered sexual harassment.
A person who sexually harasses someone else may be a supervisor, co-worker, or even a client or customer. Sexual harassment may also occur between two people of the same gender.
Some behaviors that could be considered sexual harassment include:
- A co-worker pats you on the buttocks as you walk by
- Sexual teasing or innuendo
- Questions about one’s personal sexual life or fantasies
- Whistling or ‘cat-calls’
- Inappropriate touching
- Repeatedly asking someone on a date
- Sexually suggestive gestures
- Sexual assault or attempted sexual assault
- Giving gifts
- Using a position of authority to pressure for sexual favors
- Touching oneself sexually around another
This is not an exhaustive list, and most of these behaviors can be quite subjective to the harassed person.
Sexual harassment is defined as behavior. There are explicit behaviors that the average person would agree is sexual harassment, such as a co-worker grabbing another in a sexual way. But, there are also more subtle behaviors that, while may not be agreed upon by everyone, may cause a “quid pro quo harassment” and/or a “hostile work environment” for the person being harassed.
Charleston Quid Pro Quo Harassment
An example of a Quid Pro Quo harassment would be a supervisor firing or demoting and employee because said employee refuses to date him or her. Another example is a manager purposely adjusting schedules so an employee must work difficult shifts, or shifts where the supervisor and employee are the only ones working, and are therefore alone.
A supervisor may ask for sexual favors, with the promise of favorable employment conditions if the employee complies, or the threat of punishment if the employee refuses their advances.
Hostile Work Environment in Charleston SC
A hostile work environment is one in which an employee must endure constant sexual jokes, innuendoes, or behaviors, even after the employee has requested this behavior stop. This behavior has a detrimental effect on the employee’s job performance.
Some subtle behaviors that might constitute sexual harassment include:
- Constant staring (described by some as ‘he/she was undressing me with his/her eyes)
- Blocking someone’s path, making it so the person must squeeze to get by
- Following a person
- Sexually explicit stories
- Making facial or physical gestures sexual in nature
What to do if You Believe You Are a Victim
There are several steps you should take if you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment at work. First, you should check your employee handbook to find out if your employer has policies against sexual harassment. If they do, follow the steps laid out in your handbook.
You might feel that you are able to discuss the behavior with the person you think is harassing you and ask them to stop the offending behavior. In this case, feel free to do so, though keep in mind, this may not curb the person’s behavior. If you’re not comfortable discussing it with him or her, then go to your immediate supervisor, or, if the supervisor is the person harassing you, go to his or her superior.
Keep in mind that it’s extremely important to keep written documentation. This should include the dates and times the behavior occurred, as well as the location of the behavior. If you can, also add witness statements from co-workers or any other people who might have seen the harassment. Oral or unsigned documents are NOT enough.
When speaking to a supervisor about harassing behavior, tell him or her what steps, if any, you’ve already taken to resolve the situation. This is where your written documentation comes in handy. Your supervisor may request copies of your documents and open an investigation into the harassment.”
If, after the above steps have not changed your situation, you might want to consider filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Do not delay if you decide to go this route; most cases must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days (or 6 months) to preserve your right to file a claim at the state level. Federal level allows for 300 days (about 10 months) to file.
Filing Charges in Charleston
In South Carolina, in order to file a “hostile work environment” charge, you must be able to prove the following:
- You experienced unwanted sexual advances or were asked for sexual favors
- You would not have experienced this harassment if you were the other gender
- This harassment must:
- Affect your work conditions
- Interfere with your work environment
- Create an offensive or hostile work environment
- Your employer failed to prevent or correct the harassment
There are a number of steps you must take to file charges. These include:
- Filing charges with the EEOC (as mentioned above) or the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC)
- Participation in an investigation—either agency will investigate your case, including looking over employment records and documents (e-mail or other correspondence) and interviewing witnesses. It’s important to fully participate in the investigation
- Mediation—you may be asked to go through a mediation process
- Going to a hearing
- Filing a lawsuit if all other steps have been exhausted without relief of the situation, preferably with the help of an experienced South Carolina sexual harassment attorney
Hiring a Sexual Harassment Attorney in Charleston
While you’re not required to hire an attorney to file sexual harassment charges with the EEOC, most people will probably feel more comfortable having a professional represent them. Many law offices offer experienced sexual harassment attorneys working in the area of employment law.
Once you decide to hire a lawyer, you should seek those who are experienced South Carolina sexual harassment attorneys. David Aylor is an experienced Charleston sexual harassment attorney. The law firm also has offices in North Charleston, Walterboro, and Myrtle Beach, and offers a wide range of practice areas.
Hiring an attorney for any action is a tough step for many people who may have never had any experience at all with lawyers. It can be a frightening prospect. Your attorney should offer a consultation, where you will present your case. Bring all documentation you have with you to the first appointment. Once the attorney has reviewed your case, he or she should give you advice on how to proceed.
It’s important to remember your attorney has experience in dealing with sexual harassment cases. He or she may ask questions you’re not entirely comfortable with, but know that it’s important to answer these questions as honestly as possible. Withholding information is not the best way to proceed with your case.
Sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or anywhere else, is something that every person should be free from experiencing. However, we all know this is not a perfect world we live in, and every one of us has the chance of being sexually harassed at some point in our lives. Sexual harassment can cause embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, and even threaten our employment.
When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, know that there is action you can take against the person who is harassing you. Start first with your employee handbook, and if that doesn’t resolve the situation, don’t delay in taking the next steps. A delay may hurt your case, or, if you wait too long, you may not be able to file at all. Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing more than grown-up bullying, and is not something you have to accept!
Sexual Harassment Case Timeline
How Does a Sexual Harassment Case Progress?
Now more than ever, in the #MeToo movement, women are recognizing how important it is to report sexual harassment in the workplace.
As opposed to a car accident victim, sexual harassment victims are often much more pressured to not file a suit because of threats against their job, social status, and even their life. Because of this, sexual harassment has been allowed to run rampant in the American workplace for years.
If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed at work, use our timeline and tips to help you navigate what will be a very difficult process.
Document Your Harassment
- Once you start experiencing sexual harassment, keep written documentation of every time your boss touches you inappropriately or says anything inappropriate. This will help you later on in the process.
Check Your Employers Sexual Harassment Policy
- Check your employee handbook, which should state sexual harassment is not tolerated in the workplace and should be reported to the supervisor immediately.
- If your abuser is the supervisor, the next logical step will be to speak to an assistant manager.
- If your assistant manager properly follows through with protocol, you may not have to find an attorney after all. However, this always isn’t the case.
Prepare for Backlash
- If the assistant manager doesn’t follow through or, even worse, is compliant in your boss’s sexual harassment, prepare for the worst. You may lose your job for “performance issues” or some other bogus reason. Now, it’s time to find an attorney.
Don't Waste Any Time Finding an Attorney
- Find a South Carolina sexual harassment attorney and tell them what’s happened. The sexual harassment attorney will help you file an administrative charge with the Charleston EEOC office, who goes into investigating the claim.
- While waiting for the EEOC to investigate, your attorney will advise you not to go near your old workplace or your former boss. In the meantime, the EEOC investigation will determine if you can bring your case to court.
EEOC Determines Claim is Invalid
- If the EEOC finds there was no wrongdoing on the part of the restaurant, do not give up. A finding of no reasonable cause does not mean there is no recourse. You can still bring an action.
EEOC Determines Claim is Valid
- The EEOC will conduct an investigation of their own. If they find your boss guilty of wrongdoing, they will go about resolving the issue themselves or will issue a “right to sue” letter — meaning you can take the case to court.
- In the case of bigger corporations, they may want to settle out of court with the stipulation of a confidentiality agreement — especially if the offender is in a high-profile position.
- While this may be the easy thing to do to stop your suffering, the confidentiality agreement will allow the offender’s actions to go unnoticed and potentially continue.
- This is one of the hardest decisions a defendant can make. A good attorney who’s been in these situations can help guide you to the right decision on a settlement.
Off to Court We Go
- Your attorney’s team may go out to find other employees who have been sexually harassed by your boss in hopes they can corroborate your story and strengthen the case.
- A judge and jury will hear evidence and testimony from you (plaintiff) and your boss (defendant). They will take all evidence into account before deciding a verdict.
If the Jury says Guilty…
- The jury will decide on the proper damages to give you and the court will enter a final judgment.
The boss can appeal the decision to a higher court if he is not satisfied with the result.
If the Jury says Not Guilty...
- You receive no compensation.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney
We at the David Aylor Law Offices cannot stress enough how hard it is to be a victim of sexual harassment. Often times these victims are shamed and bullied into less than satisfying resolutions to their cases.
Litigation puts a tremendous burden on the plaintiff, so don’t go into a sexual harassment case without an attorney who’s handled these tough situations before.
David Aylor and his team have more than a decade of experience helping Charleston sexual harassment victims navigate through the difficult case process. Call his office today at 843-744-4444 for a free consultation on your case.