Representing Victims of Sexual Harassment in Legal Claims Against Their Employers In Texas

2017 was a year in which sexual harassment dominated the news headlines. Several high-profile men including movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Today show anchor Matt Lauer, actor Kevin Spacey, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, and Texas lawmaker Blake Farenhold were thrust into the national spotlight after allegations emerged of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate touching to offensive and lewd comments to rape. As a consequence, these men were fired or forced to resign, marking a significant tipping point and watershed moment in society in which abusers were held accountable for indecent and inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

The ongoing avalanche of scandals not only sparked a nationwide dialogue but has become a rallying cry for victims who have historically remained silent due to fear and shame. This newfound empowerment has spurred the social media movement known as #MeToo which has brought a coalition of women together around the phrase “Me Too” to declare that they too have experienced sexual harassment. 

The unfortunate reality is that sexual harassment isn’t just confined to Hollywood, the media, or the halls of Congress. Rather, it’s happening right here in Texas — across all industries and income levels with individuals in high-level positions, low-level positions, white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Harassment can come from anywhere – a supervisor, a co-worker, a client, or a customer. And it’s not just women that are victims, men can be victims too and it’s not uncommon for the victim to be the same sex as the harasser.

Sexual harassment attorneys Gregory Bevel and Wesley Gould sincerely empathize with the difficulty involved in coming forward and have always taken pride in creating a safe space for clients to share their stories.

A Compassionate Advocate Who Will Vigorously Fight To Protect Your Rights

If you believe that you or your loved one has been a victim of sexual harassment in a workplace in Texas, we can help you pursue a legal claim or bring a lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses. Under Title VII and Texas employment law, employers who are found liable for sexual harassment can be ordered to pay compensation for monetary losses, mental pain and emotional distress, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs.

You deserve to stand up for your rights and join the chorus of voices demanding change. Call today to schedule a complimentary consultation and learn more about your rights and legal options. 

It’s important to act quickly to preserve your rights. There is a statute of limitations on filing sexual harassment claims and if you miss the deadlines, you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case. We have the knowledge, skills and resources to build a compelling case on your behalf.

Our law firm is prepared to help you navigate the legal process of reporting sexual harassment to your employer in accordance with their policy. If your employer takes proactive action to rectify the issue you may not need to pursue any further action. However, if your employer fails to correct the situation or retaliates against you in some way such as wrongfully terminating your employment, then we will not hesitate to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). If the matter is still not properly resolved after exhausting all administrative remedies, we will file a discrimination lawsuit in federal court against your employer or the person responsible for the harassment.

Texas Sexual Harassment Laws:

State and federal law prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 protect employees from employment discrimination based on sex or sexual harassment. The law applies to private employers with 15 or more employees and to all state and local governmental entities regardless of how many employees they have.

Defining Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Working Place

A broad definition of sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or unwanted verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission identifies two types of sexual harassment in the workplace: “quid pro quo” harassment and hostile working environment harassment.

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that translates to “this for that.” This form of harassment occurs when a manager or other authority figure promises a subordinate an employment benefit (favorable performance review, raise, promotion, a sought-after work shift or job assignment) in exchange for meeting a sexual demand. Conversely, a harasser may attempt to threaten a subordinate with disciplinary action, termination, or demotion if sexual favors are not granted. A single incident of quid pro quo is illegal and may be grounds for a lawsuit.

Hostile working place harassment takes place when unwelcome sexual conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment that makes it impossible for the victim to do their job effectively. To be deemed a hostile working environment, there must be a frequent or pervasive pattern of abusive behavior that is sufficiently severe. Your employer can be held liable if they knew or should have known of the harassment but failed to take prompt and appropriate remedial action.

If the person who has created a hostile working place is in a managerial role, your employer may attempt to defer liability by saying that they reasonably tried to prevent and correct the harassing behavior and you failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective measures they offered. Sexual harassment attorney Greg Bevel has strategies to combat this argument and ultimately prove liability.

What Actions Constitutes Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

  • Deliberate and unwanted touching, groping, patting, punching, squeezing, tickling, or brushing against a person
  • Unwelcome verbal conduct such as derogatory jokes, teasing, comments about an individual’s body parts or dress, asking intrusive sexually explicit questions
  • Unwanted exposure to material of a sexual nature such as derogatory and/or sexually-oriented posters, photographs, e-mails, cartoons, and drawings
  • Direct or indirect threats or bribes for unwanted sexual activity
  • Sexually suggestive sounds or simulating sex acts such as sucking noises, winks, or pelvic thrusts
  • Repeatedly asking a person to socialize during off-duty hours when the person has said no or has indicated he or she is not interested
  • Giving gifts or leaving objects that are sexually suggestive

If you believe that you are facing sexual harassment at work you may be the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. Are you putting up with unwarranted and unwanted sexual conduct at work? This harassment may come with legal rights and responsibilities. Bear in mind that not every comment or action will add up to sexual harassment. Is another employee in your workplace overstepping a line? You may be empowered to protect your rights by filing a sexual harassment claim. You have rights, but it’s important to take action quickly to protect your interests.

Sexual harassment is defined as advances, sexual conduct or request for sexual favors that is unwelcome. These advances often lead to a hostile work environment. They can also generate a negative job outcome like being passed over for promotion or being fired. One of the most challenging things about handling a case like this is that you may need to show proof of all of this behavior, an experienced attorney can walk you through the process.

No one is immune to being a victim of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can occur in any different workplace environment and it can be committed by a anyone. A company owner, a customer, a supervisor, a vendor or a coworker. Sexual harassment is classified as a type of sex discrimination that is protected.  Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964 affords you protections. Note that all employers must comply with this if they have at least 15 employees. Have you already submitted information to your employer about the sexual harassment at work? If they have refused to investigate the situation, you need to share this information with your lawyer.

What the law says about Sexual Harassment at work:

Many local and state governments have also passed laws prohibiting sexual harassment and sex discrimination. In order to move forward with a sexual harassment case, you must be able to illustrate that you did not welcome the comments or the sexual conduct to which you were subjected. In a majority of these cases, there is no question that the conduct is unwelcome. If you were subjected to sexual comments, physically groped with assault, it is much easier to illustrate that the conduct is unwelcome her response.

Document the Sexual Harassment at work and get help

Severe and pervasive conduct may lead to a hostile work environment. You need to document any situation in which you believe you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work. This may be the best way to illustrate that your rights have been violated. Consulting with an attorney who has extensive experience in this field will help you significantly if you decide to move forward with a sexual harassment claim. Call our office for experienced guidance at any time: (214)580-2555

Steps to Take After Experiencing Sexual Harassment At Work:

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are important steps you can take to build an effective case.

Tell the Perpetrator to Stop: Easier said than done but if you feel it is safe to do so, it’s important to ask the perpetrator to cease the offensive activity. This puts them on notice that the behavior will not be tolerated and you won’t hesitate to report them.

Document the Incident/s: Record all instances of harassment along with the date/s, time of day,  specific words or actions used, and how the harassment made you feel. Also write a list of all witnesses who observed, overheard, or otherwise witnessed any of the offensive activity.

Gather the Evidence: Keep and make copies of all relevant documents that support your claim and show a pattern of harassing behavior. This may include photographs, emails, texts, cards or notes, performance evaluations, statements from other workers who have witnessed or experienced similar treatment. If you have sought counseling or have been absent from work due to the emotional stresses of your work environment, make a note of that as well.

Report the Harassment: Making your employer aware of the situation is central to the overall success of your case. Your employer should have a written sexual harassment policy located in your employee handbook that outlines the proper protocol for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment attorney Greg Bevel can help ensure you follow the correct procedures so you do not lose your right to file a claim or lawsuit. If your company does not have a sexual harassment policy, the harassment should usually be reported to human resources or a higher-level supervisor.

Having a sexual harassment attorney on your side lets your employer know you mean business which makes them more likely to take the necessary investigative steps to resolve the issue.

File A Charge of Discrimination: If you’ve reported harassment and your employer ignores it or does not take reasonable action to prevent or correct the harassing behavior, the next step is to file a formal charge of discrimination with either the state administrative agency, Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division (TWCCRD) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies are responsible for the enforcement of sexual harassment laws and investigating charges of harassment.

Time Limits for Filing: There are strict deadlines for filing a charge of discrimination in Texas. To preserve your rights under state law, you must file your complaint with the TWCCRD within 180 days of the most recent incident of harassment. To preserve your rights under federal law, you must file your complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the date you were harassed.  The failure to timely file a charge of discrimination will result in your claim being barred, and you will be unable to file a lawsuit later based on the unlawful conduct.

EEOC Process: To begin the complaint process, you will need to file the charge in person at your local EEOC office or by mail.  You will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Your name, address and telephone number
  • Name, address and telephone number of your employer, employment agency or other entity that allegedly discriminated (and number of employees)
  • Brief description of the alleged sexual harassment violation
  • Date(s) of the alleged violation or violations
Dallas District Office
207 S. Houston Street
3rd Floor
Dallas, TX 75202-4726
Phone: (214) 655-3355
TTY: (214) 655-3363

Sexual harassment lawyer Greg Bevel can help you incorporate the necessary documentation or evidence needed to shed light on your case.

The EEOC will schedule an interview with you to discuss the information you have provided as well as your rights and responsibilities under the laws. They will also explain their investigative process and what your legal options are moving forward.

Mediation: Within 10 days of the date you filed the charge, the EEOC will send a notice and copy of the complaint to your employer. Soon after, the EEOC may extend an invitation to you and your employer to try to resolve your case through mediation. Mediation involves a neutral third party who attempts to facilitate a compromise or settlement between you and your employer. The decision to engage in mediation is voluntary. If the EEOC does not propose mediation or if mediation fails, the EEOC will most likely ask your employer to submit a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim.

Investigation of Charge: The EEOC will assign an investigator to conduct an investigation into your matter, which may entail visiting your workplace to hold interviews and gather documents, reviewing your employer’s record for any past incidences of discrimination, and evaluating the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. An investigation can take anywhere from 3-10 months.

Settlement: Settlement negotiations can take place at any time during the investigation if both parties are willing. Settlement is an informal process aimed at reaching an agreement that is satisfactory to everyone involved. If you go this route, you would avoid the cost and stress of litigation but your employer would not have to admit liability.

After Investigation is Completed: Once the investigator has completed their investigation, they will issue a recommendation on how to move forward.

File a Lawsuit: If the EEOC was unable to find reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, you will be issued a notice called  Dismissal and Notice of Rights. This notice informs you that if you want to pursue further legal action, you have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days from the date of its receipt.

Conciliation: If the EEOC determines that sexual harassment likely did occur, you and your employer will be issued a Letter of Determination and will be invited to resolve the matter through an informal process known as conciliation. This involves a series of negotiations in which offers and counter-offers are presented. We can represent your interests during this process and make sure you receive the settlement you deserve.

Protecting You From Retaliation:

The law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who brings forth a sexual harassment complaint. Remedies for wrongful discharge may include reinstatement, back and future pay, promotion, punitive damages, and an injunction against future illegal conduct. Your employer can also be made to pay attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, and court costs.

If you believe you may have been a victim of sexual harassment, call our team to get help with your case today.  We’re happy to offer a free consultation and in most cases no fees are charged until you win your case!