Sexual Harassment Attorney in Louisville, Kentucky
According to statistics released by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), from Fiscal Year 2018 through Fiscal Year 2021, 98,411 charges of harassment in the workplace were filed, and 27,291 for sexual harassment. The EEOC is the federal agency empowered to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other statutes regarding employee rights in the workplace. Even though 27,291 sexual harassment charges were filed in those three years, a study done by the EEOC found that 90 percent of employees who experience sexual harassment never report it.
According to the EEOC, sexual harassment is covered not just by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but also by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Kentucky also has statutes on the books defining and prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace.
If you or your coworkers have been subjected to sexual harassment at work in or around Louisville, Kentucky, contact me at Chris Sanders Law PLLC. I can meet with you, discuss the situation, and assess your legal options going forward. Not only can I advise you on filing charges and other immediate actions, but I can also help in organizing all those who have been sexually harassed at your workplace to pursue justice together.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Subsequently, the EEOC was empowered to enforce the provisions of the act and also of subsequent acts regarding workplace abuses. As for sexual harassment, the EEOC defines it in two ways:
QUID PRO QUO: When unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors are linked to the person’s employment – for example, “if you don’t do this, you won’t get a pay raise” – it falls into this category. Other examples would be threats of termination, demotion, or denial of advancement without sexual favors being offered.
HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT: Here, sexual advances or sexually based comments are so pervasive that they make employees so uncomfortable that it becomes hard to perform their duties. Under this definition, a worker who has not been personally propositioned or been subjected directly to comments can claim sexual harassment because of a hostile work environment.
Types of Sexual Harassment
The EEOC cites three common types of sexual harassment:
VERBAL: Telling offensive jokes, using offensive language, making threats, and commenting about a person’s physical appearance.
PHYSICAL: Touching, holding, grabbing, and gestures of a sexual nature.
NON-VERBAL: Staring at a person’s body or circulating offensive or degrading material.
Who Can Be a Sexual Harasser?
A sexual harasser can be the victim’s direct supervisor, a supervisor from another department, a co-worker, and even a supplier, client, or customer. In addition, though the stereotype of a sexual harasser is that of a man making advances on a woman, the opposite also applies, as does a same-sex situation.
In the Commonwealth, Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 35.679 contains three definitions of what makes for a sexual harasser. It is someone who:
(1) Influences, offers to influence, or threatens the career, reputation, pay, or job of another person in exchange for sexual favors;
(2) Makes deliberate or repeated unwanted offensive comments or gestures of a sexually-explicit nature toward, or in the presence of, another person; or
(3) Displays or transmits to another person, without legal justification or lawful authorization, imagery of a sexually-explicit nature.
The Employer’s Responsibility and Liability
Outside of government workers, Kentucky does not require sexual harassment training, but that doesn’t prevent employers from taking proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The employer should have strong anti-harassment policies, whether in their employee handbook, as a separate policy statement, as an online training course, or even by instituting their own form of staff training.
There should also be an effective complaint and grievance process, and complaints and grievances must be investigated and dealt with immediately. It is illegal for an employer to ignore a sexual harassment complaint or grievance. Disciplinary action must also be taken if the complaint or grievance bears out to be factual. Standards must be set and enforced.
Employees can also file charges with the EEOC, which will investigate the issue. The agency may then impose sanctions on the employer, such as mandating new policies or training. If the victim was denied promotion or otherwise lost income because of quid pro quo sexual harassment, the employer may have to undertake restitution of lost wages. If the victim was terminated, the EEOC may order reinstatement along with compensation for lost wages.
The victim can also sue the employer, but to do so in federal court, you must first report the incident to the EEOC and then wait to receive what is called a “right to sue” notice. Under Kentucky law, you can file a claim with the Kentucky Commission on Civil Rights or file a lawsuit in state courts.
When an Employer Retaliates
If an employee is retaliated against for filing a charge of sexual harassment, and/or for participating in an EEOC investigation, the employer may be liable. Retaliation could be something as simple as relocating an employee to an isolated spot in the building, changing their work hours so they no longer have the personal freedom they used to, or something as serious as demotion or termination.
Sexual Harassment Attorney Serving Louisville, Kentucky
If you or a loved one—or your co-workers—are experiencing sexual harassment at work or have already been victimized, you need to reach out for legal counsel immediately. Contact me at Chris Sanders Law PLLC if you’re in or around the Louisville, Kentucky area. I’m ready to help answer your questions and concerns and seek a path forward.