Serving Clients in Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, Washington D.C. & Throughout the U.S.
Women have made extraordinary professional strides over the last half-century. While many companies remain shamefully un-diverse, women are now working hard at every level of organizations throughout the economy.
This is indisputably a positive development. Tragically, however, some individuals and companies have failed to adjust and allow a culture of sexual harassment to flourish, putting both men and women at risk.
James Shoemaker is an employment lawyer with decades of experience in sexual harassment litigation. He knows how unacceptable such harassment is and he works with victims to pursue the compensation they deserve.
If you've been the victim of sexual harassment in Roanoke, Richmond or nearby areas of Northern Virginia, and you need an experienced lawyer, please call 757.223.4560 for a consultation at our Newport News office.
Types of Sexual Harassment
What Is Quid Pro Quo?
There's a “classic” variety of sexual harassment that most people are familiar with and think of when the term sexual harassment comes to mind. This is quid pro quo sexual harassment.
In these cases, an individual with power over another (usually a supervisor dealing with an employee) uses that power to extract sexual favors. This can take the form of offering a raise or promotion in exchange for a date or sex, or trying to coerce such favors by threatening retribution if sex is refused.
This is loathsome behavior, as unacceptable as it is illegal. But it's not the only type of sexual harassment.
What is Hostile Environment Harassment?
The other form of harassment our firm handles is hostile environment harassment. In these cases, the harassment is less about a precipitating incident or incidents or a single bad actor and is more about the culture and atmosphere cultivated at the company.
Too many companies implicitly tolerate an environment that is hostile, usually toward women. This hostility can take the form of:
- Insulting, degrading or sexually explicit jokes
- Tolerated sexual advances
- Circulation of pornography in the workplace
More generally, a hostile workplace environment is one in which individuals reasonably feel uncomfortable and unable to advance through the organization as a result of a culture tolerated by management.
Why Fight for Your Rights in Sexual Harassment Litigation?
Neither form of sexual harassment is acceptable. It can prevent you from advancing in your career and earning a salary commensurate with your talents. And it's important to remember that ultimate responsibility for repeated harassment doesn't just rest with the individual doing with the harassment – if it can be proven that management was aware of the specific harassment in question or tolerated a culture of harassment, the company as a whole can be held accountable.
Mr. Shoemaker understands the intricacies of local, state and federal sexual harassment laws. He can help you pursue compensation for the harassment you suffered, putting your career back on track and holding accountable those who harassed you or tolerated your victimization.
How Can an Attorney Help You Build a Sexual Harassment Case?
Workplace sexual harassment claims can be difficult to navigate. It’s best to get the help of an employment law attorney, like Mr. Shoemaker, who knows what it takes to build a strong case.
Mr. Shoemaker will investigate your claim and gather supporting documentation. He will help you compile evidence and stay ahead of important deadlines. Familiar with federal and state sexual harassment laws, Mr. Shoemaker understands the best way to pursue your case. Of course, he will also make sure that you are treated fairly throughout the claim process.
Keep in mind that you typically cannot bring a civil lawsuit against your employer or another employee without a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC. Mr. Shoemaker can assist you in filing the necessary complaint. If the issue is still not resolved after the EEOC investigation, he will get to work building your case and seeking appropriate remedies for the harm you have suffered.
What Evidence Must Be Gathered To Prove Sexual Harassment?
A strong sexual harassment case is built on evidence. You will need to prove that you suffered workplace sexual harassment, that you reported the behavior, and that it continued or nothing was done about your complaint. You don’t want it to come down to your word against someone else’s. Gather as much information as you can to back up your claim, such as:
- Physical and digital communications
- Eyewitness statements
- Video footage
- Workplace emails, texts, or memos
- Your employment contract and employee handbook
- Documents about sexual harassment policies and procedures
It’s also a good idea to keep a journal when dealing with workplace sexual harassment. If you can, try to write down each instance of harassment as it happens, including specific information such as the date and time, the people involved, and how the incident affected your work and wellbeing. Doing so will help make sure that you don't forget or misremember the facts.
What Should I Bring To A Meeting With An Attorney About A Sexual Harassment Case?
Your initial meeting with an attorney can be a bit overwhelming. You will get the most out of it if you come prepared with some essential documents. In the case of a sexual harassment claim, your list of things to bring should include:
- Evidence to prove the harassment, such as emails, texts, or copies of offensive visuals.
- Evidence that you reported the harassment, such as reports, letters, emails, or notes.
- A list of the losses you have suffered due to the harassment.
How Long Do Sexual Harassment Cases Take in Court?
Many sexual harassment cases are settled before they go to trial. It can take as short as a few months or as long as several years to reach a resolution depending on various unique factors.
This timeline may seem frustrating and intimidating. However, it is important to press on until you receive a fair settlement or judgment. Our attorney will keep you informed at every stage.
Settling a Case vs. Taking It to Court
Sometimes, a lawsuit can be resolved before the issue reaches a trial. You can reach a settlement at any point during litigation. It’s not unheard of to agree to one the same day a lawsuit goes to court. In some workplace sexual harassment cases, a settlement is ideal. In others, it’s better to take the matter to court. Our lawyer will let you know what makes sense for your specific situation. In general, if you can get a fair settlement for your damages without the need for trial, then that’s all the reason you need to settle outside of court. However, if your employer refuses to give you the remedies you deserve and your case is strong, then going to trial may be best.
How Are Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Settlements Calculated?
Sexual harassment lawsuit settlements are calculated based on the losses that the plaintiff suffered due to the harassment. They can include damages such as:
- Back pay (wages, bonuses, tips, commissions, vacation or sick pay, benefits, and other types of compensation).
- Front pay (future potential earnings when reinstatement is not possible).
- Pain and suffering (emotional upset caused by the harassment).
- Punitive damages (intended to punish the defendant for intentional or egregious acts). Attorney’s fees.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment in Virginia?
Workplace sexual harassment claims must be filed before certain deadlines run out. It is crucial to consult an experienced attorney who can help you seek a resolution while you are still able.
Workplace sexual harassment statutes of limitations can vary based on federal and state laws. Sometimes, these claims are governed by different time limits than other employment law offenses. Mr. Shoemaker can provide more information about the deadlines in your case.
In general, the deadline to file a claim with the EEOC is 180 days from the last date of the alleged violation. That deadline is extended to 300 days if the charge is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. Our attorney is familiar with the applicable laws across the nation.
Where in the Workplace Does Sexual Harassment Commonly Take Place?
Sexual harassment can occur anywhere in the workplace. It takes place in personal offices, breakrooms, cubicles, hallways, bathrooms, and other traditional office spaces. It can also happen in work environments such as construction sites, medical facilities, and warehouses.
Keep in mind that inappropriate behavior can also transpire elsewhere. Sexual harassment that takes place outside of the office and/or work hours can still result in employer liability. For example, a coworker might harass another employee by sending sexual messages after work.
The takeaway is that work-related sexual harassment is illegal regardless of where it occurs.
Does Sexual Harassment Only Occur Between Males and Females?
No. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone. The victim and harasser may identify as any gender and any sexual orientation. Furthermore, the victim and harasser do not have to be of any specific gender identity. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that sexual harassment can take place between people who identify as gender non-binary and people of the same sex.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect From a Sexual Harassment Case?
A successful sexual harassment claim should compensate you for damages like lost wages and emotional upset. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded to punish your employer.
You may receive compensation for things such as:
- Lost wages and raises
- Lost bonuses, commissions, or tips
- The value of any lost benefits
- Vacation or rick pay
- Profit-sharing or stock options
- Front pay for future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Harm to your reputation
- Out-of-pocket costs such as medical bills
How Difficult is it to Prove Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can be difficult to prove, but it is not impossible. Part of the issue is that, unlike other types of workplace-related issues, most instances of sexual harassment occur behind closed doors.
There are few if any, direct witnesses. Your harasser probably did not leave any type of paper trail. Because of that, proving sexual harassment will likely require a significant reliance on circumstantial evidence, although this can be more compelling than people realize.
Can You Sue For a Hostile Work Environment in Newport News, VA?
If you're an employee in Virginia who has been subjected to by colleagues or your employer, or if you've been discriminated against, you have a potential workplace discrimination lawsuit for a hostile work environment. Note that direct sexual harassment would fall under that umbrella.
How Much are Newport News VA Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Worth?
If you were to sue your Newport News, VA employer for sexual harassment under TITLE VII, you should know that the federal government has capped the amount you can receive in damages at $300,000.
How Do I File a Complaint in Newport News, VA?
Who you should file a complaint with in terms of sexual harassment in Newport News, VA, depends mainly on who is doing the harassment. If your supervisor sexually harassed you, you would want to file a complaint directly with that person's supervisor. You can also go directly to your company's human resources department.
Note that in Virginia, you can also take advantage of the State Employee's Discrimination Compliant Procedure. This falls under the purview of the Office of Equal Employment Services of the Department of Human Resource Management. If you choose to go this route, you have 180 days from the date the discrimination took place to do so.
How Can I Make My Sexual Harassment Case Stronger?
Many people make the incorrect assumption that the only way to strengthen their sexual harassment case is to collect as much evidence as possible. As mentioned, in many of these situations, there needs to be more direct evidence to fall back on. That's okay because there are still a number of steps you can take to put your best foot forward from a legal perspective.
Make it clear that not only are they engaging in unwanted behavior, but if it continues, you will file a formal complaint. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, go through your business's human resources department.
You should stay as calm as possible in any interaction with this person. You should also work to identify any possible witnesses who saw some or even all of the unwanted sexual behavior. That way, they can back up your claims should the need arise.
What Scares Human Resources (HR) the Most?
Generally speaking, the thing that scares human resources departments at businesses the most when it comes to sexual harassment is just how prominent it is. According to one recent study, over 30% of employees said that they didn't realize their jokes could be considered sexual harassment to begin with. Another study indicated that women in the workplace have a 54% chance of becoming victims of sexual harassment.
How Successful are EEOC Complaints in Newport News, VA?
One study indicates that "negotiated or mandated changes" in workplace environments only happen in about 7% of all EEOC complaints filed.
Call Today for Your Sexual Harassment Case Consultation
With decades of experience as a trial attorney, James H. Shoemaker, Jr. is available to provide dedicated and compassionate legal representation to injured clients nationwide.
If you have been a victim of sexual harrasment, call Mr. Shoemaker today at 757.223.4560. One of our paralegals will review the facts of your case with you and then Mr. Shoemaker will call you and discuss your case with you free of charge*.
Located in Newport News, Mr. Shoemaker serves clients throughout Northern Virginia, Richmond, Roanoke and the surrounding areas.