As experienced sexual harassment attorneys, we appreciate that deciding to take formal action, file a complaint, or discuss your circumstances with a lawyer can feel daunting, distressing, and challenging. The first step to filing a sexual harassment lawsuit is reporting the incident, followed by filing with with either the federal EEOC or the state South Carolina Human Affairs Commission.
Strom Law’s specialist sexual harassment team is always on hand to offer guidance, reassurance, and support, answering all your questions and ensuring you make informed decisions about pursuing damages or holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
Today, we’ll look at some common questions around how to file a sexual harassment lawsuit, explain aspects many clients are unsure about, and clarify how the law upholds the rights of victims of harassment, discrimination, and assault.
Can I File a Legal Complaint for Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is unlawful, and those who have been harassed, discriminated against, or treated unfairly in the workplace may have recourse to file a report with the authorities, the courts, and the appropriate regulatory organization.
Does sexual harassment break a federal law? Yes–Title VII prohibits sexual harassment at the national level, backed by the state of South Carolina Human Affairs Law. South Carolina adheres to the federal laws, where sexual harassment is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as any of the following:
- Physical conduct
- Verbal communications
- Requests for sexual favors
- Unwelcome advances
Any harassment that is discriminatory, hostile, offensive, or intimidating or that interferes with a person’s ability to work in a safe environment may constitute sexual harassment.
How to Lodge a Case for Sexual Harassment
Once again, victims of sexual harassment are first expected to have reported the incident to their employer, following formal complaints procedures or policies in place. In additinon, it’s best to file a complaint with either the federal EEOC and/or the state South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC).
In doing so, a harassment victim ensures that the employer and perpetrator are held culpable where the employer has not taken reasonable action or investigated a complaint. When the complaint has been received and acknowledged, the victim will normally receive a letter setting out their right to commence a civil lawsuit.
The relevant statutes of limitations are as follows and relate to the first complaint filed:
- The EEOC must receive a complaint within 300 days.
- The SCHAC has a shorter cut-off point of 180 days.
- You have ninety days to commence a lawsuit following receipt of the ‘right to sue’ notice.
If your case has passed the 180-day SCHAC deadline, it may be possible to refer the complaint instead to the EEOC. Your attorney can suggest the most suitable organization to file the complaint with, depending on the nature of the harassment, the size of the employer, and other circumstances.
However, these limitations mean it may be essential to move quickly, consulting an attorney with an in-depth knowledge of the state and federal laws, which can ensure your case is filed in good time and protects your right to claim compensation.
Limitations on Lawsuit Claims Related to Sexual Harassment
How much can you sue for sexual harassment? Federal law sets a limit of $300,000 awarded to an employee when suing an employer for sexual abuse or harassment. This may depend on multiple variables, and smaller businesses with between fifteen and one hundred employees may be subject to a maximum damages claim of $50,000.
There may also be variances in the damages assessed depending on whether sexual harassment is considered one of the following:
- Quid Pro Quo harassment is committed by a perpetrator with control or authority who requests sexual favors in return for ‘benefits’ such as retaining a job or being offered a promotion.
- Hostile Work Environment harassment is where the victim is subject to unwanted advances or conduct, interfering with the way they carry out their work or creating a threatening or offensive workplace setting.
In any case, sexual harassment victims have federal rights. They can bring a claim against an employer who has failed to protect their workforce or take suitable action to stop harassment from continuing.
Financial compensation may relate to lost income, contribute towards the costs of recovering from harassment, or reflect lost future earnings. Working with a skilled lawyer is ideal, providing the assurance that you are following the correct procedures and that your rights will be upheld.
Should you need assistance with filing a sexual harassment case, lodging a formal complaint, or assessing whether unwanted behavior constitutes sexual harassment, get in touch with the Strom Law team at any time.