A jury in Iowa has recently awarded $790,000 in damages to a DHS employee who accused the department of fostering sexual harassment. The woman, Tracy White, stated in her lawsuit that she had been subjected to persistent sexual harassment and discriminated against ever since she joined the Department of Human Services in 2000. According to her, several managers and colleagues made lewd comments or resorted to inappropriate touching over the years. She also said promotion decisions were based on perceived attractiveness criteria, rather than competence and job performance.
Following such a landmark trial, more sexual harassment victims will undoubtedly feel empowered and will decide to take action. The first thing you need to do is contact a lawyer and see if you do have a case. The above mentioned case is an example of how hard it is to prove that you have to work in a hostile environment, which is fundamental in sexual harassment trials. The attorney’s hired by the DHS alleged that the sexual jokes and comments were isolated incidents, spread over time, and White made too much of them. The argument did not hold in their case, but it’s something you need to be prepared for.
Sexual harassment lawyers advise their clients to collect as much evidence as possible. Keeping a journal where you write down all the incidents, detailing what was said and who was present at the time can be most helpful.
Also, if the harassment you’re subjected to includes being sent indecent messages or sexually suggestive images, don’t click the delete button. Save everything to your device as they can be used as evidence in court.
Before getting a lawyer you should, however, resolve the situation by speaking directly to your employer or filing a complaint with the HR department. According to the law this is the first step you need to take and your employer needs to be allowed the time to put things in order. If they fail to do so, experienced employment lawyers recommend filing a complaint with state authorities, such as the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, or with federal bodies, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
These commissions are required to look into your case and, if they find just cause, they will initiate negotiations between you and your employer. If you know what’s good for you, you shouldn’t go into these negotiations without good Iowa sexual harassment lawyers by your side. Your employer will most certainly bring their own attorneys and so should you.
You need to have reliable legal representation as there’s a lot at stake in such a negotiation. Through mediation you can get reinstated if you were forced to quit your job. Not many sexual harassment victims want to go back to their old job, though. Much more important are the damages you can recover through mediation. For instance, you can be compensated for lost wages, but a good lawyer can also win punitive damages for you.