We have made positive strides toward making workplaces free from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, sexual harassment continues to occur and remains a widespread problem. Sexual harassment by a coworker can affect a person’s well-being and health. Nobody should be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is an illegal form of illegal sex-based discrimination in Washington state.
Have you been subjected to sexual harassment by a coworker or manager? If so, you can take steps to ensure the conduct stops. You have rights under state and federal law, and attorney Kristi Favard of Sapphire Legal, PLLC, can help you enforce your rights. She focuses her legal practice on representing employees who’ve experienced discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Contact Sapphire Legal, PLLC, today to schedule your initial consultation.
Coworker Sexual Harassment in Washington
The definition of sexual harassment in Washington is broad. Sexual harassment isn’t limited to sexual propositions. Instead, sexual harassment includes hostile actions from coworkers because of the victim’s gender. Under Washington state laws, “gender” also consists of a person’s sexual identity and orientation. Coworker sexual harassment can happen to men and women and between people of the same or different sexes.
Hostile Work Environment
There are two categories of illegal sexual harassment in Washington: creating a hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. A coworker can create a hostile work environment in one of two ways. Coworkers can engage in the following types of sex-based harassment that create a hostile work environment:
- Unwelcome sexually suggestive or demeaning comments
- Making repeated and unwelcome requests for romantic dates
- Making offensive sexual gestures
- Offensive sexual touching
- Sexual pranks or jokes
- Intimidating behavior
- Demeaning comments
- Sharing pornographic material
Coworker sexual harassment involves unwelcome behavior directed at you because of your biological sex or gender status. The conduct mentioned above must be pervasive and/or severe. You will need to show that the level of coworker’s sexual harassment is so severe that it affects your ability to do your job effectively. You will also need to show that your employer is directly or indirectly responsible for your coworker’s sexual harassment.
When a co-worker or manager provides you with less favorable employment conditions because of your sex or gender, he or she has created a hostile work environment. When a manager engages in discrimination based on sex regarding the following issues, a hostile work environment has been created:
- Hiring procedures
- Work assignments
- Work schedules
- Vacation or sick leave benefits
- Job evaluation
- Termination (firing)
Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor demands or requests sexual contact for employment benefits. Facing this type of pressure from a coworker or manager can be extremely difficult, especially for those concerned about losing their position.
If you were pressured by your coworker to engage in sexual activity or risk losing your job, being punished, or losing out on a promotion, you might have a right to file a legal claim against your employer. Even if you told your coworker “no” to his or her proposition, you still have a right to pursue a legal claim.
Additionally, your sex or gender status doesn’t need to be the sole reason you received unfair treatment. However, your gender sex must be one of the primary reasons your coworker engaged in quid pro quo sexual harassment.
What Isn’t Considered Coworker Sexual Harassment?
Not every offensive comment or action taken by a coworker rises to the level of illegal sexual harassment in Washington. Isolated events by coworkers are typically not enough to prove sexual harassment. However, if the isolated incident was threatening, very offensive, or very serious, illegal sexual harassment may have occurred. For example, if your coworker made one sexually explicit joke in front of you and another coworker, this conduct likely isn’t enough to prove illegal sexual harassment.
Steps to Take After Coworker Sexual Harassment
Being subjected to coworker sexual harassment is often a humiliating and shocking experience. Many employees aren’t sure what steps they should take after being subjected to coworker sexual harassment. The steps you take after experiencing coworker sexual harassment will play an important role in your future legal claim. We recommend consulting with a sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible, who will offer you legal support and advice. Attorney Kristi Favard will review your case and walk you through the steps that you should take next.
After speaking to your lawyer, you should tell your coworker to stop the sexual harassment if you feel safe. Keep a record of the times that you tell your coworker to stop. Next, you should report the sexual harassment to your management or human resources department.
Attorney Kristi Favard can help you make a written sexual harassment claim and submit it according to your company’s procedures. Make sure you keep a copy of your complaint. You will need to allow your employer some time to deal with the problem.
Unfortunately, many employers ignore complaints or fail to take any beneficial action to stop the harassment. At that point, attorney Kristi Favard will advise you on your legal options. You can file a claim with the Washington State Human Rights Commission at the state level. You may be able to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In some situations, filing a lawsuit in a court may become necessary.
Contact a Snohomish County Coworker Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact attorney Kristi Favard of Sapphire Legal, PLLC. She has successfully represented many Washington employees who’ve experienced coworker sexual harassment, and she can help you obtain the compensation and restitution you deserve. Schedule a consultation with her today to discuss how she can protect your rights.