Sexual Harassment has been all over the news for the last few months. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and speak out about unwanted and uninvited sexual situations that can and do affect a person's career. Here are just a few of my thoughts for everyday working people - those of us who are not involved with celebrities or public figures.
Sexual Harassment is defined as "any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature"1 that interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. This could include sexual requests, sexual comments, touching, or worse. We non-celebrity and non-politicians must understand that if you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, there are avenues to file complaints. Many (but not all) companies have procedures in place that usually start with a complaint to Human Resources. If a co-worker is sexually harassing you, you can report it and the employer has a duty to investigate. If your boss or supervisor is doing the sexual harassment, there may not be an avenue for reporting it within the company, but you can file directly with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) in CT or the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).
There are short statute of limitations periods for these filings. You must file with the CHRO within 180 days, and you must file with the EEOC within 300 days. If you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, it's important to contact an employment lawyer to discuss your options as soon as possible.
What we see in the media are people who realize it is important to bring these charges against public figures to light, even if the statute of limitations have run. However, people also need to be aware of what the statute of limitations are if they are seeking recourse or need protection. Many of my clients face losing a job or a promotion and need to be compensated for their losses. People fear that they will lose their jobs once a complaint is made. If they do lose their job after filing a complaint, there is a separate charge for retaliation. This does not apply to rape or sexual assault, which are criminal matters with different statutes of limitations.
If you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, give me a call, or at least go to the CHRO or the EEOC websites to learn about your rights. If you lost your job or a promotion due to sexual harassment, legal help is available. The earlier we file, the more likely that witnesses or other evidence will be available to support your claim.
For most of us, we live in a system of laws and there are time limits if we want to take legal action and be compensated. I hope you never find yourself in any of these situations, but if you do, you can call me for a no cost phone consultation. For additional information, go to the CHRO or EEOC websites.
1 Connecticut General Statute §46a-60(a) (8). In Connecticut, these claims are filed with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).