When Should I Contact a Lawyer About Sexual Harassment at Work?
Many employees hesitate to report sexual harassment at the workplace. You may understand their line of thinking. Some of these workers think that it’s not the “right time” to bring up the uncomfortable situation they’re in. Other workers are worried that reporting misconduct could jeopardize their career. There are even cases in which co-workers or HR representatives dismiss legitimate complaints, claiming that the employee is making a big deal out of a non-issue despite all the evidence.
All of these thoughts circulate in the minds of sexual harassment victims before they reach out to my legal team. I help clients throughout Allen and the North Dallas area, including Plano and Frisco, through every step of the legal process. Let’s discuss when you should contact a lawyer about workplace sexual harassment and how to navigate the conversations to come.
Speak With a Sexual Harassment Attorney As Soon as Possible
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer about potential sexual harassment as soon as you suspect it’s occurred.
An attorney can listen to your story, evaluate your account, and let you know what steps to take next so your complaint is taken seriously.
I’ve been representing Texas workers since 1984. From what I’ve experienced, an initial consultation with a legal professional helps people feel heard and validated. In fact, many workers feel empowered when they talk about their experiences with a lawyer who’s on their side.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Some workers hesitate to report sexual harassment because they are not sure they were sexually harassed. The umbrella is much wider than you may have imagined, so it’s often best to trust your gut.
These examples can help you identify misconduct at work and encourage you to speak with an employment law attorney sooner rather than later.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment encompasses any undesirable, offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Many cases of harassment have a sexual undertone, such as asking for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, or using verbal or physical actions that allude to sex.
Keep in mind that sexual harassment doesn’t need to have a sexual nature to be considered harassment. Any targeted language or actions that undermine another person’s sex and make for a hostile working environment can be classified as sexual harassment.
Trust Your Gut: Contact My Law Office About Your Experiences
I recommend that clients reach out to my firm when harassment becomes frequent and severe to the point where they start to experience a toxic or hostile working environment. I offer free consultations, so it costs nothing to talk with my team of lawyers and see if you have a sexual harassment case worth pursuing.
HR or Attorneys: Which Comes First?
You may be wondering if you should reach out to my law firm or your human resources (HR) department first. Your company may even encourage you to report sexual harassment to HR first before making a complaint to federal or state authorities.
If you’ve already reached out to your HR department and not much has changed in your favor, it’s not too late to get in touch with us. However, if you haven’t reached out to HR yet, it can be a good idea to come to my firm directly before speaking with HR.
A Lawyer Can Help Build Your HR Complaint
I can help you form what to say when you approach HR. My role is to strengthen your conviction about what happened, offer guidance on what to say, and formulate a plan of action following your meeting with HR.
The legal team at my Allen labor and employment law office can help you from start to finish so you have the confidence and information to navigate this process.
Should I File a Complaint With the EEOC?
The EEOC is a federal agency that’s responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit different forms of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment. The EEOC investigates these complaints, facilitates mediation, and can give employees the right to file a lawsuit if needed.
Generally, it’s recommended to file a complaint with the EEOC or file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) before contacting lawyers. Filing a complaint with these organizations is a prerequisite for taking legal action.
You start the legal process by filing this complaint, but if the EEOC or TWC fails to resolve the matter or if you choose to bypass mediation, you can move toward legal action. In this case, the EEOC or TWC will issue a “right-to-sue” letter that grants you permission to file a lawsuit in federal court against your employer. At this point, you can contact my team to help you establish a case and guide you through the legal process.
My Firm Can Offer Support and Guidance with Your EEOC Complaint
Taking the steps to report and pursue sexual harassment charges can be intimidating. If you feel cautious about filing a claim with the EEOC or TWC right away, my team is available to provide you with free guidance before you start this process.
Texas Legislation Focuses on Protecting Employees
Since September of 2021, Texas legislation has passed several bills that benefit employees facing sexual harassment in the workplace. Knowing these laws have been passed to protect employee interests may give you further confidence to pursue legal action and stand up in the face of discrimination.
- Extended Filing Deadlines for Formal Complaints - Formerly, employees had 180 days to file a complaint with the TWC or EEOC. The updated legislation extends this timeline to 300 days. A lot of overthinking and hesitation comes with filing a sexual harassment complaint. This change offers employees a longer amount of time to report harassment.
- A Wider Definition of “Employer” - Prior to September 2021, a company needed at least 15 employees to file a harassment claim. With the new legislation, the definition of an employer has been extended to companies of all sizes, meaning any person who employs one or more employees. No matter the size of your company, you deserve legal support against harassment.
- Employer Response Standards - The new laws also hold employers to a higher standard when it comes to taking action on sexual harassment complaints. The new law states that an employer commits an unlawful action if they "(1) know or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring; and (2) fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action."
Not Sure Where to Start? Request a Consultation
Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace can feel isolating, but getting immediate legal help can make you feel less alone. At my law office in Allen, my team can guide you through the process of taking action against your employer.
If you need legal guidance or assistance with approach HR, the TWC, or the EEOC with what happened, contact my employment law firm today.
Dan A. Atkerson
Dan A. Atkerson has worked as a civil employment law attorney in DFW since 1984. He has extensive knowledge of state and federal labor statutes and is a member of both the State Bar of Texas and the Dallas Bar Association.