By Lawrence P. Schaefer |
Sexual harassment claims under federal or state law must be brought within 300 days (under federal law) or one year (under state law) of the conduct alleged to violate the law. And this means an agency charge or Complaint must be filed, not just an internal complaint with the employer. While there may be other claims in addition to sexual harassment, such as common law assault or battery if the harassment involves actual or threatened physical touching, with longer time periods to initiate litigation (called statutes of limitations), missing this 300 day/one year deadline can result in a sexual harassment claim being dismissed as not timely filed. Acting fast when harassment is occurring is thus critically important.
Sexual Harassment Claims…What You Need to Know
It is important to understand the broad scope of conduct which could be considered illegal harassment. First, conduct creating a hostile environment doesn’t have to be overtly “sexual” to be considered illegal harassment. In other words, if you are being subjected to abusive or bullying conduct because of your gender, that’s enough under the law. The key in establishing harassment for non-sexual behavior is to demonstrate that the abuse or bullying was, for instance, directed at women in the workplace more so than men.
Second, sexually harassing behavior often occurs over time, and the resulting pattern can start with the harassing behavior, then change when an internal complaint is made and take the form of retaliation against the victim raising the complaint(s). Any incident within this pattern that occurs within the 300 or one-year window can be sufficient to allege a timely sexual harassment claim. Under what is referred to as the “continuing violation doctrine,” the victim alleging this claim can often recover for the effects of all illegal conduct within this pattern, even if some of this conduct occurred outside the 300 day or one year window. Experienced legal counsel will understand how this doctrine may apply to your situation.
Third, “me-too” isn’t just a current movement raising awareness about sexual harassment, but also refers to evidence in sexual harassment cases that can be critical to develop in establishing a claim. Those prone to harassing others often have many victims, and developing the testimony of others also subject to this behavior can be the difference between a difficult “he said/she said” scenario, versus one in which the illegal conduct is part of a pattern affecting many employees, current and former. Even if those alleging “me-too” support in a sexual harassment case were victimized before the 300-day or one-year window, this evidence should nonetheless be admissible to prove the harasser acted in conformance with this established pattern of illegal behavior.
The “me-too” phenomenon has, thankfully, raised awareness about this issue in the workplace, and emboldened many employees and former employees to speak out against this abuse. The lawyers at Schaefer Halleen have deep experience in this area, and deploy this experience to evaluate and prosecute resulting claims.