Kansas City Sexual Harassment Attorney

Missouri Sexual Harassment Laws

Employers have an obligation under both state and federal law to provide a workplace that is free from harassment and discrimination. Fulfilling this obligation ensures a productive and safe work environment for all employees. Sadly, even with the best policies in place, sexual harassment can still frequently occurs in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. When a person is being treated differently in the workplace because of their sex – this is discrimination. When that different treatment takes the form of verbal or physical conduct that creates a hostile work environment – that is harassment.

If you feel that you are a victim of sexual harassment in your workplace, it is important to protect your rights and consult with a Kansas City sexual harassment lawyer.

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Woman being sexual harassed by male colleague

Missouri Sexual Harassment Comes In Many Forms

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, and can take a variety of forms. It should be understood that sexual harassment can happen to women or men and that the action does not have to be physical in nature for it to be considered harassment.

Some of the most common forms of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwanted physical interactions
  • Inappropriate physical gestures or body movements
  • Inappropriate jokes or innuendos directed specifically at you
  • Sexual advances
  • Berating someone about their sexuality
  • Inappropriate messages, emails, or photos
  • Request for sexual favors
  • Discriminatory practices for refusing sexual advances
  • Quid Pro Quos – Demanding sexual acts in exchange for employment benefits
  • Gender-based harassment

This list only contains a generalized look at actions that are considered sexual harassment. If you have become a victim of sexual harassment, speak with an attorney. Your attorney can help identify whether the conduct constitutes sexual harassment, provide advice on how to handle harassing behavior, and, if necessary, help you make a legal claim against the responsible party.

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Woman considers hiring sexual harassment lawyer in Kansas City

Gender-Based Sexual Harassment Defined

Gender-based harassment is a form of sexual harassment. Singling out and demeaning anyone based on their gender is sexual harassment by nature. The harassment does not have to be overtly sexual but instead may be demeaning or abusive to a specific gender in the workplace.

Gender-based harassment is generally a negative stereotyping of a specific gender. This stereotyping can be used to prevent a person from being hired, promoted, trained, or otherwise hinder their employment. It can be used to berate, embarrass, or otherwise make a person feel bad about their gender. Gender-based harassment can also include circulating “jokes” or other types of documentation that make negative portrayals of a specific gender “just for amusement.”

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Sexual Harassment Laws In Missouri

Missouri sexual harassment laws include state and federal laws. Missouri has enacted the Missouri Human Rights Act, which prohibits all forms of discrimination and harassment, including those that are sexual in nature or gender-based.

The Missouri Human Rights Act applies to all businesses that have six or more employees. This law also applies to labor organizations and the housing industry.

In addition to the Missouri Human Rights Act, employees are protected by several federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and regulations adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

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Kansas City sexual harassment attorney stops unwanted touching in the workplace

When Do Actions Become Sexual Harassment?

It is very important to understand that for the law to recognize an action as sexual harassment, the harassment must be serious enough to alter the terms and conditions of employment. One or two offhand remarks generally isn’t enough, even if they were offensive or in poor taste.

Instead, to prove a case for sexual harassment, the conduct must be sufficiently egregious or frequent enough that a reasonable person would consider the work environment to be intimidating or abusive, or that the harassment unreasonably interfered with the employee’s job performance.

There are no hard and fast rules for determining when a work environment becomes hostile enough to break the law. Different people may have different opinions about that, which is why it is important to seek the guidance of a Kansas City sexual harassment attorney with experience evaluating these situations. But, generally speaking, you must show that the conduct went beyond garden variety teasing or joking around that occurred only once, distasteful comments, or similar isolated incidents if they have not caused harm. However, even a single instance can create a hostile work environment if it was particularly egregious.

Sometimes it can be hard to know whether a co-worker’s misconduct crosses the line into sexual harassment territory. If you believe that you are a victim of sexual harassment, you should consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible for guidance. You do not need to accept sexual harassment; there is help. Contact a Missouri sexual harassment attorney to discuss what is going on in your workplace and what can be done to make it stop.

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What To Do If You Believe You Are Sexually Harassed

When you have been subjected to sexual harassment, there are several things that you should do to protect yourself from this type of behavior.  We encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual harassment to use the following as guidelines only. Each situation is different and may call for a different approach, and nothing below should be taken as legal advice for your particular situation. If you would like to discuss the best approach for your situation, please reach out to us and we will set up a time to give you a free consultation.

Talk to Person that is Harassing You

You should consider approaching the person harassing you and inform them that their behavior is making you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, this is all it will take to make the harassment stop. Some people do not realize that their taste in jokes, their side comments, or their general behavior is offensive to other people.

Don’t be overly aggressive or confrontational. Act politely, and just tell that person that you are not comfortable with what they are doing. Once you have done this, take notes about what you said and when you have said something. If it never happens again, all is good.

However, if the sexual harassment continues after you have asked for the person to stop, or you don’t feel comfortable approaching your harasser, you can take the following steps.

File a Complaint with Management or Human Resources

Your next step is to file an official complaint. Usually your employer will have an employee handbook or policy document that will give you guidance on how to make a complaint. This may feel a little intimidating or embarrassing, but it may be necessary in some cases. Once you have filed a complaint, it becomes the responsibility of the employer to make the actions stop.

Your employer must come to a solution to make the harassment stop. If they fail to make it stop, they are being negligent and can be held responsible for all your damages. We recommend that you make your complaint in writing, by email or other electronic means if possible. When employers take retaliatory actions against employees who made complaints of sexual harassment, the employers often deny that the employees ever complained. You can avoid that issue by simply putting your complaint in written form. At the very least, make sure you document when you spoke to someone at work and what you talked about.

Document Everything

Sexual harassment can be a little challenging to prove because it often occurs without anyone else seeing or hearing it happen. However, you can document what happens and create a timeline of events. This will help establish how and when sexual harassment is taking place.

You will also want to save any evidence of harassment that is in written form. Examples might include derogatory notes left in your workspace, a sexually offensive picture hanging in the breakroom, or text messages with unwanted compliments or requests.

File Complaint with MCHR/EEOC

If sexual harassment continues after bringing the issue to your employer’s attention, you have options to file a complaint with a government agency such as the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you worked in Kansas City, you can also file with the Kansas City Human Relations Department.

In Missouri, you must file with one or more of these agencies before you can proceed with filing a sexual harassment lawsuit. It is highly recommended that you work with an attorney through the MCHR/EEOC process, as the statements you make during those proceedings can have a significant impact on your later legal case. The law has also recently changed such that if you do not take certain procedural steps during the agency process, you could be prevented from obtaining the right to sue your employer in court after the agency process concludes.

Importantly, you do not have to follow all of these steps in this particular order in every case (except for the agency complaint process). You might have a case even if you never reported the behavior to your employer or otherwise tried to stop it while you were still employed. These cases are all very fact-dependent, so if you have experienced conduct that you believe may constitute sexual harassment, we again encourage you to contact sexual harassment lawyers in Missouri. You have the right to work in a workplace free from harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. When you contact an attorney, they will review the information and explain to you the next steps to take to stop the harassment.

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Sexual Harassment Is Not Limited To Management

It is a misconception to think that sexual harassment is limited to management or business owners. Sexual harassment can come from these individuals, but it can also come from other employees as well.

It should also be understood that the employer’s obligation to maintain a work environment free from sexual harassment includes preventing sexual harassment from third-parties that you encounter during your job, such as clients, vendors, repair services, or similar visitors.

If someone outside of your company harasses you sexually, it is important to tell management immediately. Once you have reported the incident to management, they are obligated to handle the matter on your behalf. If they do nothing about the harassment, they can be held liable for negligence.

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Sexual Harassment And Social Media

Social media has become integrated into our daily lives. People use social media to share their personal experiences with friends and loved ones because it is the easiest way to reach many people at once.

When you have been a victim of sexual harassment, it is easy to understand that you would want to share the event with your friends and loved ones. It is probably much easier to type out what has happened than to actually say it out loud. You are frustrated and hurting, and it is easy to understand why you are seeking comfort from your loved ones.

Although posting on social media may be a form of evidence to show that the harassment was taking place, what has been written can also make you look hostile. Venting your anger and saying things that make it look like you are seeking revenge against someone is something that the defense will use to their advantage.

If you wish to speak with your family and friends about what has happened to you, it is much better to do so in person or on the phone. You do not want to create a scenario online that can be twisted and used against you.

Additionally, you should avoid posting content that might be offensive. Although the offensiveness of the conduct often depends on its source, employers and their lawyers often spy on social media profiles to see if you engaged in any of the same or similar behavior that you reported as offensive. They often try to argue that the conduct you complained about couldn’t be offensive to you if you were doing it yourself. They also will try to use any information on your social media profiles to unfairly portray you as a bad person or bad employee. So it’s best to monitor your social media activity, or better yet, stay off social media altogether if you are contemplating legal action.

Once you have contacted an attorney, you should not put anything about your case or any interactions you have with your attorney on social media. Your discussions with attorneys are confidential and cannot be discovered by the other side unless you voluntarily disclose the information to third parties.

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Time Limits for Sexual Harassment Cases in Missouri

When you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is critical to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the event has occurred. There are time constraints for filing a claim for sexual harassment.

Depending on the case, you may be filing a claim under state or federal laws. All laws are subjected to the time constraints called “statutes of limitation.” These statutes require that any legal action be filed within a certain time period from the time the event occurred. This ensures that all parties involved in the case receive a fair trial.

To pursue your legal claims under Missouri law, you must file an agency complaint within 180 days of the discrimination or harassment. In harassment cases, sometimes the harassment started long before 180 days ago. In those circumstances, you can still file as long as one act of harassment happened within the 180 day period and the harassment was frequent enough to constitute a continuing pattern.

In Missouri, to pursue your claims under federal law you must file a complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the discrimination or harassment. We often encounter employees who waited too long to take legal action, and therefore lost their rights to pursue their legal claims. Therefore, it is imperative to speak to an attorney as soon as possible after the event occurs.

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Consult With A Sexual Harassment Attorney Kansas City Today

It is frustrating that we live in a day and age where sexual harassment continues in the workplace. Unlike in the past, however, there are many things that you can do to protect yourself from sexual harassment and to ensure that it stops. You also have legal rights to seek financial compensation for the harm that you suffered as a result of sexual harassment.

A person that has been sexually harassed can suffer many losses. Financially, they may find that they have to quit their job because of the harassment, or they may find themselves demoted or have their hours cut when they do not reciprocate unwanted advances.

A person who is being sexually harassed may also find that they have had their reputation tarnished if they have been unlawfully terminated by the person causing the harassment, or if they were retaliated against by having unfair disciplinary actions placed in their file.

The emotional stress may cause the victim to miss work or to seek medical care. This is also a financial burden they would not have had if they were not being harassed. The list of damages against someone who is being sexually harassed can continue on from there.

As a victim, you do not have to accept being harassed. You do not have to accept these financial burdens and losses. There is something that you can do about what is happening to you. If you are sexually harassed, it is time to speak with an attorney.

Our law firm is dedicated to helping people who have been sexually harassed. Our compassionate attorneys understand the frustration and embarrassment that you are feeling, and we will work aggressively to get justice on your behalf.

Time is of the essence. It is to your benefit to contact a sexual harassment lawyer Kansas City as soon as possible after the sexual harassment has occurred. You have a limited time to file a complaint against the person or business that is responsible for the harassment. If you do not file in time, you can lose your right to seek justice for the harassment you endured.

Sexual harassment is not acceptable. It is not legal, and it should never be tolerated. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, protect yourself, and speak with a sexual harassment attorney about your situation.

Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.

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Kevin A. Jones is a sexual harassment attorney in Kansas City

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