I am facing Sexual Harassment with my boss, how do I prove my claim?

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Question: I have been working as a sales person for my current company almost the past 6 months. When no one is present in the office besides me and my direct manager, he continually says sexually oriented things to me. The other day, he tapped my rear end as I had a great sales day. We have a generally good relationship but that made me extremely uncomfortable. Am I in a position to file a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit? How would I go about it?

Response: Sexual harassment is gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Act) and is defined as unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates  an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.  In the case of quid pro quo harassment, the sexual harassment is implicitly or explicitly conditional to the victim’s employment.   Proving sexual harassment initially is the burden of the complainant who must bring a prima facie case showing any of the aforementioned elements.  However, in most states, once the complainant has shown prima facie evidence, the burden then shifts to the defendant to prove that his or her actions do not constitute discrimination under the Act.

Under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a complainant should notify the abuser that his attentions are unwanted.  If he or she persists, the plaintiff should then utilize any internal corporate system to lodge a complaint.  If the complaint is not followed up, the plaintiff can then pursue his or her rights under the EEOC.  The EEOC will investigate all of the circumstances surrounding the sexual behavior, including the nature and context in which it occurred.

One of the barriers to effectively enforcing sexual harassment laws is non-reporting.  Victims often feel embarrassed or ashamed.  As your manager’s actions fall under the prima facie definition, you must report your manager’s behavior to his superiors, and if they will not stop the harassment, then you should consult an attorney regarding filing a complaint with the EEOC.

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Answered by Sharon Cullars

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