Is #METOO You Too? If you have or are being sexually harassed at work, you have rights.
In the past, following the allegations against Hollywood producer and director Harvey Weinstein, victims of sexual harassment have been coming forward. The #MeToo campaign was started by Tarana Burke. She regretted not sharing her story of abuse when a young woman confided in her. It was revived following the Harvey Weinstein campaign by actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to publicly share their stories on social media to prove how often this happens.
The large number of accusers on social media proves that this sort of behavior is sadly more common than previously thought. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates that 75 percent of workplace sexual harassment goes unreported. With high-profile celebrities and many other speaking out, almost daily, this is changing.
Workplace harassment can take on many forms, ranging from unwanted comments to sexual advances. If this type of behavior caused you distress or caused you to seek alternative employment, you may be entitled to compensation.
Sometimes it’s crystal clear that you’re being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. Other times, it might be hard to know for sure whether or not what you’re experiencing is, indeed, crossing the line.
According to Attorney Paul Aiken from the Hyannis-based law firm of Aiken and Aiken, P.C., Massachusetts state law lays out two categories of sexual harassment in the workplace:
Quid Pro Quo harassment is described as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct, for which the submission or rejection thereof becomes the basis for employment decisions or a term or condition of employment.
Hostile Work Environment is described as sexual favors, sexual advances or physical conduct of a sexual nature that have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.
There are certain requirements in order to use the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). Consulting a sexual abuse lawyer can help you decide if you fit these requirements and if you should move forward with a complaint for harassment, abuse or any type of workplace bullying. Paul and Steven Aiken of Aiken and Aiken, P.C., for example, have been practicing law on Cape Cod for almost 40 years. They have handled numerous cases of sexual harassment with sensitivity and compassion.
“You start off by filing a complaint with MCAD. The closest office to the Cape is New Bedford,” said Paul Aiken. “Through this mediation, they are able to assess damages or, if you don’t get what you are looking for, you can then file a lawsuit.”
Attorney Aiken suggests first going to a manager or supervisor to make them aware. Also telling co-workers to find out if this person has a history or a pattern of this sort of things with others in the workplace.
“A lot of people are still afraid to come forward,” said Aiken, “it’s hard to believe in this day and age, but it’s true.” The good news is, this process with MCAD is not intimidating. They are there to ensure that this doesn’t happen. “It’s not the same as going to a D.A. and getting criticized or critiqued. It’s done in writing. And the MCAD is favorable to the victims.”
Companies are required to post information for employees so they know where to go and how to file a complaint, but that isn’t always the case. Contacting a lawyer locally can help you navigate the system and ensure that you are doing the right things to fall within the parameters set out by MCAD.
If you’ve been subjected to inappropriate behavior at work, or you think you have, speaking to a legal representative can help you decide if it’s crossed the line to sexual harassment as defined by the law and, more importantly, what your rights are. A reliable, local resource can help you.
Local Lawyers Referral of Cape Cod is an online directory of local attorneys regardless of what type of legal help you need. In addition, this centralized resource provides current, useful information about a variety of legal topics. Deciding to pursue a sexual abuse or harassment case, or any legal matter can be daunting. Visit LocalLawyersCapeCod.com today.