While actors, executives, and politicians have been forced to publicly face allegations of workplace sexual harassment in past weeks, the initial development and continuity of these types of cases can face relatively high challenges even before they are filed in court, NPR reports.
Although 25 to 50 percent of women polled have reported experiences with sexual harassment at work, only an estimated 5 to 15 percent actually complain about the conduct to their employers because of fear of retaliation. Even more troubling is that cases that do make it to trial still run a substantial risk of being rejected, which experts say may only further discourage employees from using the court system to seek justice and compensation as victims of workplace harassment.
Dismissals of these cases in court are often the result of the inappropriate conduct in question failing to fit the complicated legal definition of sexual harassment. A 1986 Supreme Court decision states that the impropriety has to be “severe or pervasive” in order to qualify as harassment, whether on the basis of sex or race. This standard, although seemingly straightforward, still leaves room for a significant amount of incidents to go unprosecuted. One judge dismissed a case where an employee experienced two-dozen incidents over a 10-day period because it was too short a time period to be considered pervasive. Yet still, other judges have been known to dismiss cases where incidents occur over longer periods if the inappropriate conduct is considered too sporadic to qualify as pervasive.
Looking forward, options for employee victims to act on incidents of sexual harassment seem to be growing as the national conversation on the topic continues. Social movements like #MeToo, inspired by high profile cases coming to light, have created a new sense of empowerment for employees and others to feel comfortable discussing the implications of workplace sexual harassment allegations. There seems to be an evolution in attitudes towards victims seeking legal recourse as well, as law firms have reported an uptick in cases of sexual harassment claims. Could all the publicized outrage and objection to workplace sexual harassment carry over to affect the rejection rate of cases that are filed in court? That remains to be seen.
Go here for more on sexual harassment and what conduct qualifies.
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At Florin Roebig, we aggressively pursue legal options with the driven purpose to compensate victims for workplace sexual harassment. If you have been targeted in this way as an employee, call our office to set up a free legal case evaluation by calling (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page to submit your case.