Mark Buchanan Law Office

Sexual Harassment

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 provides for jury trials and damages for emotional distress, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life, because of discriminatory harassment. In addition, if your employer demonstrates reckless disregard for your civil rights, you may also obtain punitive damages. As illustrated in the popular movie North Country, women need not run a gauntlet of sexual abuse in order to perform their jobs. When a work environment is polluted with discriminatory insults, sexual advances, or ridicule, because of a women's sex, it can create a hostile work environment, which violates the law.

Our firm has consistently worked to protect women's rights, including a recent verdict in January 2006 for $6.8 million dollars, the first jury verdict for sexual harassment in the Missouri state court system.

To have a good case, the conduct must be unwelcome, that is, you did not enjoy or invite it. In addition, it must be severe or frequent enough that a reasonable woman would find it offensive. Obviously, the simplest way to show that conduct is unwelcome is to reject the sexual advances.

The law emphasizes that isolated offensive comments, teasing, or flirting are generally not enough to justify a claim. As the courts say, the law is not a general civility code. To determine whether harassment is serious enough, we need to consider how often it occurs, the severity, whether it interferes with doing your job, whether it's physically threatening or humiliating, and whether the harasser was a supervisor, or a co-worker.

If you are a victim of harassment, it is important to complain by bringing it to management's attention. The law strongly encourages an employer to adopt a sexual harassment policy, enforce it strongly, by taking prompt action in response to complaints.