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What to Do if You’re Being Sexually Harassed by Your Boss

— July 1, 2021

People often find it difficult to call out their boss’s bad behavior because they fear retaliation such as demotion or termination.

Sexual harassment can occur anywhere at any time. Victims of sexual harassment are often women, but they are not the only victims of unwanted sexual advances. Sexual harassment in the workplace is not uncommon and it can cause problems for people who are simply trying to do their job. In some cases, sexual harassment comes from your boss, making a solution to your problem much more difficult to find.

Your employer is usually the person you go to for help with problems in the workplace. Many victims of sexual harassment are left wondering who they can turn to for help when their boss is the one sexually harassing them. Checking with your human resources department is a good start, but you should also speak with an attorney. It may be possible to file a personal lawsuit over your sexual harassment claims. The exact nature of your claims and how your case will progress will depend on your unique situation.

Every sexual harassment case is different. For some, the harassment is an annoyance that interferes with important work duties. For others, the harassment may take a significant toll on their mental health and can interfere with job opportunities or promotions. Sexual harassment may also come with criminal components if the unwanted advances turn physical or constitute criminal harassment.

Sexual Harassment from a Boss or Employer

Sexual harassment is a broad term that encompasses many different forms of unwanted sexual advances. Sexual harassment often includes rude sexual remarks from your employer about your physical appearance. Sometimes, these kinds of remarks can be passed off as innocent flirting or just crude jokes. However, when the behavior persists over time and the harassment results in adverse employment decisions, you may have a case for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Sexual harassment from a boss or employer is especially problematic because your boss is usually the person in charge of your job duties and may approve or deny you work promotions and pay raises. In some cases, when someone calls out their boss’s sexual harassment, their boss retaliates by making their work-life more difficult. By filing a lawsuit for sexual harassment, you may claim damages for missed job opportunities or even being unfairly terminated. If successful, you could recover any wages you lost or missed out on due to the sexual harassment.

Before beginning a lawsuit, it is important to examine all possible avenues for solving the problem. Sometimes, courts will look to see if you have exhausted all possible remedies before taking steps to file a lawsuit. For example, if you do not contact your human resources department about your employer’s behavior, your case may be severely weakened.

The Statute of Limitations on Sexual Harassment

As with most legal claims, you have a limited amount of time to file your sexual harassment claims against your boss. Exactly how long you have may be a bit unclear at first as the time limit is influenced by state law, federal law, and the nature of the harassment.

Under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s rules, you must file your claim within 180 days of the sexual harassment or discrimination. This time may be extended to 300 days, depending on the laws of your state.

Sexual harassment is often repetitive and may be ongoing. If that is the case, the clock starts over for every incident of sexual harassment. In other words, the statute of limitations for sexual harassment begins to run starting on the date of the most recent incident. If you are unsure about how the statute of limitations applies in your own case, speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Pressing Criminal Charges in Connection to Sexual Harassment Claims

Depending on how your boss has been sexually harassing you, you may find yourself in the middle of a criminal case in addition to your civil lawsuit. Sexual harassment commonly involves making unwanted sexual comments to another person. Sometimes, the harassment turns physical and becomes a criminal offense.

Example of sexual harassment; U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale/Released, via, public domain.
Example of sexual harassment; U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale/Released, via, public domain.

In many states, unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature may be charged as assault. Contrary to what is portrayed in movies and on television, assault is not always aggressive and violent. If your boss likes to place their hands on your waist or pats your behind as you walk by, you are being assaulted. If the assault becomes violent or aggressive, such as being pinned down while your boss tries to kiss you, there may be even more serious criminal charges.

If your harassment has taken a physically aggressive turn, you should speak with an attorney. An attorney can help you figure out if your employer’s actions constitute criminal behavior. If your boss ends up being criminally charged, you should still file your private sexual harassment lawsuit promptly, as the ongoing criminal case will not extend your statute of limitations. However, the outcome of the criminal trial could play a role in your civil lawsuit by providing on-the-record testimony and evidence for you to use in your civil case.

Why Sexual Harassment Should Not Be Ignored or Dismissed

Sexual harassment is unfortunately prevalent throughout our society. Employees are especially vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances from their boss because their boss has unique authority over them. People often find it difficult to call out their boss’s bad behavior because they fear retaliation such as demotion or termination. Speaking to a workplace sexual harassment lawyer about your situation before taking any action can help you get the problem resolved without putting your job at risk.

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