Sexual Harassment Lawyer Columbus & Sexual Assault Attorney
As an experienced sexual harassment lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, I’ve witnessed the profound impact that sexual harassment can have on individuals in the workplace. At Stepter Employment Law, my firm and I are committed to protecting client rights and ensuring a workplace free of sexual harassment and assault.
If you have experienced sexual harassment in your workplace, it’s time to stand up for your rights. We are committed to guiding you through every step of your legal journey, ensuring that your voice is heard and your rights are tenaciously defended. Don’t let the fear of retaliation or the complexities of the legal system deter you from seeking the justice you deserve. Contact Stepter Employment Law today for a confidential consultation with an experienced Columbus sexual harassment lawyer.
What Constitutes Illegal Sexual Harassment in Ohio?
Sexual harassment in Ohio is a form of sex discrimination, violating both federal and state civil rights laws. It can manifest in two primary forms:
- Hostile Work Environment. This includes unwanted sexual advances, comments, emails, or any form of sexual conduct that makes the workplace intimidating or offensive.
- Quid Pro Quo. This occurs when job benefits, like promotions, raises, or even maintaining a job. are contingent upon sexual favors.
Both forms are prohibited under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and Ohio state laws. According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) sexual harassment can include a wide range of circumstances, including:
- The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to the victim.
- The victim need not be fired to bring a claim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
Were you denied a promotion because you rebuffed unwelcome sexual advances? Have you had enough of your co-worker’s graphic sexual language? Contact Stepter Employment Law today to schedule a consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.
Can Speech Be Sexual Harassment?
Yes. Typically, the standard is whether the speech would be considered sexual harassment by an average person.
How Many Times Does an Act Need to Occur to be Sexual Harassment?
It depends upon the situation. Unwanted physical contact (such as groping) will be sexual harassment (and may be sexual assault), even if it only happens one time. Other conduct – perhaps off-color jokes may or may not be considered sexual harassment if it only occurs one time. If you contact me, I can provide guidance based on what happened to you.
Can Men Be the Victims of Sexual Harassment?
Absolutely. The gender of the harasser and victim does not matter; a man can be the victim of sexual harassment from another man or woman.
What Types of Damages May Be Available Through a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?
When seeking legal recourse for sexual harassment, a variety of damages may be available to the victim, including monetary and non-monetary damages.
Monetary Compensation for Sexual Harassment
Monetary compensation often includes reimbursement for lost wages and other economic losses incurred due to the harassment. This might encompass situations where the victim was forced to take unpaid leave, experienced reduced work hours, or was unjustly terminated, leading to a loss of income or lower-paying employment.
Emotional Distress & Pain and Suffering
In addition to economic losses, victims can seek compensation for emotional distress or pain and suffering. The impact of sexual harassment can be profound, leading to severe stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, loss of sleep, reputational damage, and a diminished enjoyment of life.
Beyond financial compensation, victims can also seek reinstatement to their jobs, particularly if they were fired or forced out due to harassment or retaliation. This could come with an award of back pay for the period they were unjustly unemployed.
Punitive Damages for Particularly Egregious Workplace Sexual Harassment
Punitive damages are another possible recourse. These are awarded in cases where the employer’s actions were particularly malicious or showed reckless indifference to the victim’s rights. The intention here is to punish the employer and serve as a deterrent to other potential offenders.
Another aspect of damages is the recovery of attorney’s fees. Under certain anti-discrimination civil rights laws, if the victim wins the case, the employer may be required to pay the legal fees of the victim’s legal counsel. This means the victim wouldn’t have to pay their lawyer from their own compensation award.
Enforcement of Updated Policies & Practices
Finally, victims can seek to enforce changes in their employer’s policies or practices to create a safer, more equitable workplace. This can include court orders or agreements to alter how the employer operates, helping to prevent future instances of sexual harassment.
Each case of sexual harassment is unique, and the types of damages available depend on the specific circumstances of the case, the laws in the relevant jurisdiction, and the outcomes of legal proceedings or settlements. As an experienced Columbus sexual harassment attorney, I can evaluate the facts of your case and explain the compensation to which you may be entitled.
Are Sexual Harassment Damages Capped in Ohio?
Yes. In Ohio, damages in sexual harassment lawsuits are subject to certain caps as specified by the state’s Tort Reform Act. This applies particularly to compensatory and punitive damages in employment discrimination claims, including those for sexual harassment.
What Damages May Be Awarded in a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in Ohio?
Here’s a breakdown of the types of damages that may be available in a sexual harassment lawsuit in Ohio:
- Economic Compensatory Damages: There is no cap on economic compensatory damages. This means that plaintiffs can recover the full amount of their economic losses due to the harassment, such as lost wages and medical expenses.
- Noneconomic Compensatory Damages: The caps for noneconomic compensatory damages, which cover things like pain and suffering or emotional distress, are limited. The cap is the greater of either $250,000 or three times the amount of the economic loss, with a maximum limit of $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 per occurrence that forms the basis of the legal action.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are also capped and are limited to two times the amount of compensatory damages. This cap applies unless the employer is a “small employer” as defined by the statute (having fewer than 100 employees). In this case, punitive damages are capped at the lesser of two times the amount of compensatory damages or 10% of the employer’s net worth, up to a maximum of $350,000.
- Judicial Modification: If a jury awards a plaintiff an amount exceeding these caps, the judge is required to adjust the award to align with the limits set by the Ohio Revised Code § 2315.21. There is some legal ambiguity regarding whether the cap on punitive damages is calculated based on the jury-awarded damages or the judicially modified amount. However, Ohio courts have generally calculated the punitive damages cap from the uncapped jury-awarded compensatory damages amount.
These caps are significant in understanding the potential financial outcomes of a sexual harassment lawsuit in Ohio. They highlight the importance of obtaining legal advice to fully comprehend how these limits might apply to an individual case.
What Will My Compensation Be If I’ve Been Sexually Harassed at Work?
If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, jurors will use the factors noted above to determine an appropriate monetary award. In general, the more egregious the conduct, the more that such conduct occurred, and the more that such conduct was overlooked by management, the higher the award will be.
What Should I Do If I Am Being Sexually Harassed or Discriminated Against at Work?
If you’re being sexually harassed, you should report such conduct as soon as possible to your company’s human resources (“HR”) department in writing. If there is no HR department, you should report the conduct to one or more company executives who were not the harassers, as a sexual harassment law firm, you can also call us.
If possible, put your complaint in writing (which could be an email). Take notes of what occurred, when it happened, and who else was a witness to the conduct, If the conduct occurs repeatedly, continue to take notes of these matters.
Can I Be Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment?
Workers are protected from being terminated or retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment under both federal and Ohio law.
If you are fired, in addition to having a sexual harassment claim, you will also have a wrongful termination claim against your employer for additional damages. Similarly, you will have a separate claim for retaliation if this occurs as a result of reporting sexual harassment.
How Can I Initiate a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in Ohio?
Initiating a sexual harassment lawsuit in Ohio requires navigating specific procedural requirements that were updated in late 2020. These changes have introduced new steps that must be taken before filing a lawsuit in court. Here’s an overview of the process:
- Filing a Complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC): The first step is to file a sexual harassment complaint with the OCRC. This is a mandatory prerequisite before any court action can be considered. Once your complaint is filed, the OCRC will notify your employer about the claim and initiate an investigation.
- Protection from Retaliation: It’s important to know that it’s unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a sexual harassment claim.
- Mediation Services: The OCRC may offer mediation services as a way to resolve the claim outside of court. Both you and your employer have the option to accept or refuse this offer. If both parties agree to mediation but fail to resolve the issue, the process moves forward.
- Investigation by the OCRC: In the event that mediation is unsuccessful, or if it is not attempted, the OCRC will appoint an investigator to examine the validity of your claim.
- Right to Sue Letter: You may request a “Right to Sue” Letter from your investigator if you wish to hire an attorney and pursue your claims in court. Further, in instances where the OCRC investigator does not find probable cause to support your sexual harassment claim, the OCRC will issue a “Right to Sue” Letter. This document is critical, as it grants you the permission needed to file a sexual harassment lawsuit in Ohio state court.
- Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): If the OCRC investigator finds probable cause to support your claim, the Ohio Attorney General will then pursue a formal complaint. This leads to a hearing before a state administrative law judge. The ALJ has the authority to order your employer to pay damages, take corrective actions, or potentially dismiss the claim if it lacks sufficient grounds.
- Seeking Legal Assistance: Navigating these processes can be complex and challenging. If you are unsure about any part of this process or how to proceed, it is crucial to seek guidance from a knowledgeable Ohio sexual harassment lawyer. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable assistance in understanding your rights, preparing your case, and representing your interests throughout the OCRC process and potential court proceedings.
How Can I File a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in Federal Court?
Initiating a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court, much like the process in Ohio, involves adherence to specific formal reporting procedures and legal protocols. This adherence is crucial for the successful navigation of the complex legal landscape governing such cases.
- Understanding Federal Jurisdiction. Before filing a lawsuit in federal court, it’s crucial to establish that the court has jurisdiction. Federal courts typically handle cases where the law in question is federal (such as civil rights laws) or when the parties involved are from different states, and the amount in dispute exceeds $75,000. Most sexual harassment cases are covered under federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Filing a Charge with the EEOC. Before going to federal court, you must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee. You have 180 days from the day the harassment occurred to file a charge, which can be extended to 300 days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.
- Receiving a Notice of Right to Sue. After the EEOC investigates your charge, they may issue a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice is essential for proceeding to federal court. In some cases, the EEOC might not issue this notice until they have concluded their investigation, which can take some time. However, if 180 days have passed since the filing of the charge, you can request a Notice of Right to Sue to proceed with your lawsuit.
- Preparing Your Lawsuit. Once a Notice of Right to Sue has been provided, you can initiate a lawsuit in federal court. This step involves drafting a legal complaint that outlines the allegations of sexual harassment. The complaint should include details of the harassment, how it affected you, and any reporting you made to your employer. It’s critical to provide as much detail and evidence as possible.
- Legal Representation. Given the complexities of federal lawsuits, it’s advisable to seek legal representation. As a sexual harassment lawyer, I can help draft the complaint, navigate federal court rules, and provide representation during the trial.
- Filing the Complaint. As a federal sexual harassment attorney, I can file the complaint with the appropriate federal district court. You’ll need to pay a filing fee unless you qualify for a fee waiver. Once filed, the defendant (your employer) will be served with the lawsuit and will have a chance to respond.
- Litigation Process. After the complaint is filed and the defendant responds, the litigation process begins. This may include discovery (exchanging evidence), motions (requests for the court to make decisions), and possibly a trial.
- Potential Outcomes. The lawsuit may result in various outcomes: a settlement, a court judgment in your favor, or a judgment in favor of the defendant. In successful cases, remedies can include monetary compensation, reinstatement of employment, changes in workplace policies and punitive damages.
Initiating a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court is a significant step that requires careful preparation and understanding of legal procedures. While challenging, it can be a path towards justice and holding perpetrators and employers accountable. If you would like to pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court, I invite you to call my office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.
How Long Do I Have to File a Sexual Harassment Complaint under Federal and Ohio State Law?
Under both Federal and Ohio state law, the timeframes for filing a sexual harassment complaint are distinctly set. Federally, if you experience sexual harassment at work, you have up to 300 days from the date of the harassment or abuse to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will then conduct an investigation and potentially file a lawsuit on your behalf or issue you a Right to Sue letter. Once you receive this letter, you have a 90-day window to file a lawsuit in federal court.
In Ohio, the timeline has recently changed. The state used to have one of the longest statutes of limitations for employment discrimination claims at six years. However, this has now been reduced to two years under the new Ohio Employment Law Uniformity Act. Importantly, this two-year period is paused (or tolled) while a plaintiff’s charge of discrimination is pending before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). If the charge is filed 60 days or less before the two-year cutoff, the statute of limitations is extended through 60 days following the OCRC charge’s resolution. This change makes it crucial for individuals who have experienced sexual harassment in Ohio to be mindful of these timelines to ensure their legal rights are preserved.
Schedule A Confidential Consultation with An Experienced Columbus Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today.
Sexual harassment lawsuits can be challenging under both federal and Ohio state law, but you do not have to face discrimination alone. At Stepter Employment Law, we provide compassionate, professional guidance and robust legal representation.
Taking action not only stands to potentially bring justice and closure but also serves as a powerful statement against workplace harassment. If you or a loved one experienced sexual harassment at work, we encourage you to reach out to schedule a consultation with an experienced sexual discrimination attorney. Together, we can work towards a fair outcome and help foster a safer, more respectful working environment for all.