Sexual harassment in the workplace is a big problem in the state of Washington. How big exactly? Nobody seems to know that. The state legislature only had very vague numbers to offer – anywhere between 25 and 85% or all women employee have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to them. There’s a huge difference between 25 and 85% and you’ll have to assume that the real number is probably closer to the latter. Few victims dare to speak out against their harassers, even though the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) clearly prohibits any form of discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or marital status.
If you’re experiencing sexual harassment, you need to talk to a lawyer and see what can be done about it.
There are two main types of sexual harassment as defined by the law.
The first type refers to a hostile work environment when you are verbally or physically abused by workmates.
The second type refers to supervisors or managers asking for sexual favors. If they indicate this is a condition if you want that job or if you want to keep it, that’s what the law calls quid pro quo, Latin phrase meaning ‘this for that’.
Fortunately, in 2018, Washington state legislators banned the use of Non-disclosure agreements that would have prevented victims from speaking out about the harassment they were subjected to in the workplace. Sexual harassment lawyers say it is now much easier for victims to find justice. If, by any chance, your employer had you sign such an agreement make sure to remind them that it only covers confidential business matters, not harassment.
How do you prove a quid pro quo case? The big problem is that any requests for sexual favors are usually made in private, so there won’t be witnesses.
When you talk to well-versed employment lawyers they will explain that it doesn’t matter where the incident occurred, at the office, at a work-related event, or simply when you met up with your boss to talk about something. In many cases, victims are invited to a restaurant or even the boss’s house ostensibly to talk business. If they proposition you for sex at such a time, that’s sexual harassment.
To prove that you might need to talk to other people at work who are in a similar position and you have reason to believe they were subjected to the same treatment. That would be very helpful indeed, but experienced Washington state sexual harassment lawyers will think of other ways to prove your claims.
Your attorneys will help you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency has full powers to investigate such complaints. They can and will grill your harasser, they can call other witnesses and they can examine internal documents that might prove you were sexually harassed. For instance, they might find evidence that you were refused a promotion because you refused to comply with your supervisor’s request. If you were fired, as it sometimes happens, that will look very bad for your employer and will increase your chances of being awarded substantial damages.