A prominent Oregon state representative, Brad Witt, was found guilty of violating sexual harassment laws by sending ambiguous text messages to a fellow lawmaker. While most people would say politicians don’t really do much, the state House still counts as a workplace, and the same employment rules apply. Witt was accused of sending messages asking a colleague on a date, starting with an innocent beer and ending with suggesting ‘more’, which landed him in trouble. Following a tense vote, the House decided Witt had violated the law creating a hostile work environment. He was ordered to attend training, but the House stopped short of having him removed.
While there’s a clear political overtone in the Witt story, Oregon employees should learn a lesson from it. If you’re subjected to sexual harassment, don’t just stand there doing nothing, talk to a lawyer.
The Oregon Fair Employment Practice Act prohibits any form of workplace discrimination based on sex, martial status or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment is also prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All you need are some experienced sexual harassment lawyers to help you build a case and file a complaint.
If you look at the evidence in the Witt scandal, he was charged with creating a hostile work environment by deviating a professional conversation into something of a more personal nature. At no time did he make any remarks of an explicit sexual nature. That was definitely not enough to have him convicted in a court of law, and, it’s probably nothing when compared with what other women have to endure in the workplace. Any form of communication, verbal or visual, that contains sexually offensive messages constitutes a hostile work environment. The same goes for unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate touching.
When you talk to skilled employment lawyers, they’ll explain that this behavior needs to be of a pervasive nature to be deemed harassing. In the eyes of the law, asking someone out on a date is not sexual harassment. However, if you refuse but the other person insists with such requests to the point of making you feel uncomfortable or threatened, then you have a case for sexual harassment.
Another lesson harassment victims need to learn from the Witt case is that you need to collect evidence, like saving any written offensive message or taking pictures of sexual displays in the workplace, indecent drawings, stickers, etc.
Oregon sexual harassment lawyers can also help you if your boss asks you for sexual favors. That was certainly implied in the lawmaker’s messages to his colleague, but as he did not hold a superior position it did not amount to a quid pro quo case. Those refer to those situations when a supervisor makes it clear that submitting to their request is a condition for you keeping your job or getting a promotion.
No matter what type of sexual harassment you’re subjected to, you need to talk to your employer about that. If they don’t take any action, your attorney will help you file a formal complaint with a state or federal agency. If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, you have the option of seeking justice in a court of law and getting damages for what you’ve been through.