How does $1.1 million in settlement for a sexual harassment lawsuit sounds to you? It might seem like quite a lot but bear in mind that this amount is going to be paid out to 10 Tennessee women who were abused and discriminated against for many years by the director of the head of the Cumberland County Solid Waste Department. The lawsuit was filed by the Justice Department against Cumberland County, accused of failing to protect the ten civil employees. The manager, whose name was not made public, had an abominable behavior, often grabbing, fondling and forcibly kissing the women who worked for him. He would make frequent comments about their looks and ask them for sexual favors. The guy was forced to resign and is now awaiting trial on criminal charges.
If you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, you should follow these brave women’s example and go see a lawyer. In the state of Tennessee, employees are protected against sexual discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as under the Tennessee Human Rights Act. This act covers people working in private or public companies with eight or more employees.
When you reach out to sexual harassment lawyers, they will explain to you what are the steps to be followed in a sexual harassment case and also what constitutes sexual harassment and what not. One thing you need to know right from the start is that in Tennessee there is no such thing as individual liability in a case of sexual harassment. If you’re being harassed by a coworker, he cannot be held accountable for violating the Tennessee Human Rights Act. If it comes to that, you’ll have to sue the employer. That’s what happened in the above-mentioned case. The manager will face criminal charges for his actions, which amount to sexual assault, but the damages will be paid out by his employer, Cumberland County.
Experienced employment lawyers will have a look at all the facts you present and decide if it’s a quid pro quo case or a hostile environment one.
The Cumberland County scandal is clearly a quid pro quo case as it was the women’s direct supervisor who was harassing them and asking for sexual favors.
A hostile environment case is when the plaintiff is targeted and harassed by one or more coworkers. It can be verbal harassment, like lewd comments and jokes, but it can also be visual harassment if your tormentors display sexually explicit images, drawings or posters around the office. Modern technology also facilitates sexual harassment and in many cases the victims are bombarded with indecent text, video or audio messages. Don’t delete any of them, they can be disturbing, but very useful as evidence.
Tennessee sexual harassment lawyers usually advise their clients to first complain to the manager or employer, giving them the opportunity to make things right.
If that doesn’t happen, your next step is to complain to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which can negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit in your name.