Legal Rights After Being Harassed At Work

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There are many types of workplace harassment. Each one can be interpreted differently and some types can overlap. The problem is that sometimes the word harassment is used loosely to describe any kind of uncalled for, unwanted, and unneeded behavior toward a colleague in the workplace. However, legally, harassment is a defined term. It has to be if you want to bring a harassment case forward and pursue a lawsuit.

What is the legal definition of harassment?

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An action is considered harassment if it is:

Offensive: Offensive behavior can range anywhere between racial jokes and slurs to outright physical assault.

Unwelcome: It is not always a given in a lawsuit that action was unwelcomed, especially in sexual harassment claims where the victim is often accused of encouraging the behavior, even if unwittingly.

Severe action: Severe actions are ones that affect an employment contract or the work of an employee. This is tricky because one nasty comment might not be enough for a court to judge off. A comment is not the same thing as a physical action, but sometimes one comment or action is enough, and other times you may need to present a series of events. The court will look at all the circumstances to make a judgment.

Besides that, there is also the issue of having a supervisor or boss that goes against the terms of your contract, such as denying you a raise or promotion. By the same token, it must be proven that the denial is based on some form of discrimination.

This shows that a general complaint about working conditions or a person does not qualify for a harassment suit. You need to prove the three conditions mentioned and show that the harassed is subject to negative intent. The bottom line is, harassment can occur in any-sized business, big or small, all types of harassment is illegal, and you have the right to take legal action if you’ve been harassed at work.

What are your legal rights?

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You need to know your rights because these rights protect you. Since harassment is a form of workplace discrimination, you have the right to sue and collect compensation if you win the lawsuit. The only person that can accurately assess your situation is a qualified lawyer. Many workplaces have an official channel to go through to make a harassment complaint, but the experts at, recommend hiring an attorney to analyze the situation because harassment is a legal matter that falls under discrimination. Another reason to hire an attorney is you might not have enough physical evidence to claim your own, but a lawyer will know how to work with minimal evidence. This will tremendously help you prove your case since you won’t get anywhere unless you prove the actions are, indeed illegal harassment and not just innocent talk or an isolated incident that crossed the line.

Keep in mind the following

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The right to job application

Employment laws protect you even before you’re hired. As an applicant or candidate for a job, you’re protected and cannot be denied the right to apply based on your race, gender, or sexual orientation. Employers don’t have the right to ask you certain family-related questions during the hiring process.

The right to protection

Harassment can be physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional. It needs to have offended your race, color, gender, age, disability, or religious beliefs. These characteristics are protected under federal law which is the basis on which you can sue a person or entity.

Fair Labor Standards Act

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An employer must follow the regulations and laws of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This protects you from having a fair number of hours of work and breaks that must be allowed by an employer. Overtime work and wages are also governed by this act.

Overwork and unfair hours cause a lot of stress and, worse, are a major cause for workplace accidents. You have the right to make sure your supervisor is not abusing you with an excessive amount of work hours.

Family and Medical Leave Act

You are entitled to take sick leave for some time. This time is usually 12 weeks within 12 months. This act protects your position and your job during the time you are absent. An employer is obliged to return you to the same or similar position as the one you had before your leave.

The right to file a grievance

Before filing a lawsuit, most people will file an official grievance report at their workplace. You should give a chance for your direct or indirect superior to fix the situation. This is assuming they are not the ones you are accusing.

These reports are usually handled by the Human Resources department of your workplace. If there is no such department, you need to talk to and present your report to someone higher up the ladder. Share your documents and other types of communication that you have collected. Management must take prompt action against the harasser and, at the very least, treat the situation as misconduct.

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Letter for the right to sue

Before going to court, you need to receive a letter from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or a similar agency giving you the right to sue. You have 90 days to sue once you receive that letter.

Your lawyer will alert the defendant that you are planning to sue them. A copy of the complaint and a summons may be sent to the defendant. Of course, most cases are settled out of court, but some may go to trial.

Anytime you feel your employer is not doing enough to protect your rights, you have the right to seek justice. Lots of people don’t recognize they’re being harassed at work. You first need to identify that there is indeed harassment happening. It is in your best interest to let a harassment lawyer handle all the aspects of such a case. There’s no need to remain silent when you can reach out for help, receive justice and compensation, and work in a healthy and safe environment.