As employment discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace have gained national attention in recent years, more employers and managerial staff have come to the realize that they will face serious consequences for ignoring, condoning, or participating in these kinds of actions. Unfortunately, the spread of discrimination and harassment awareness may have also caused an unforeseen negative consequence: women are still being discriminated against in workplace promotions or during the hiring process because employers see them as a potential source of future liability. Sex discrimination in the employment and hiring process, however, also can give rise to employer liability.
Thus, an employer can be responsible for discrimination on the basis of sex in its hiring, working, promoting, disciplinary, and termination decisions that have an adverse impact on its female employees.
The University of Colorado has conducted research on the treatment of women in the workplace
Some recently published findings from the University of Colorado at Boulder provide insights into sexual harassment and gender based discrimination against women in the workplace. Based on in-person interviews and surveys, the study found that about two thirds of all women surveyed said they experienced unwanted sexual attention in the workplace and about 25% said they experienced some kind of sexual coercion at work. Despite these mind-boggling statistics, the researchers at the University of Colorado concluded that the number of women experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace had decreased in the wake of the “Me Too” movement an due to the continuing widespread media attention. Further, it is important to note that the research also found that overall, women now feel more comfortable and supported when reporting these kinds of problems in the workplace than they did in the past.
Unfortunately, the study also reported that the total number of women experiencing discrimination (as opposed to harassment) because of their sex appears to be growing. It found that sex discrimination appears to be increasing due to a growing hostility towards women in the workplace resulting from a fear of accusations of misconduct. In other words, it does appear that some very real progress has been made in recent years with respect to reducing sexual harassment, but women may still be facing a different form of improper treatment: discrimination in hiring and promotion.
Consequences for discrimination
Sexual discrimination and harassment in the workplace are illegal and if such discrimination or harassment can be proven in court, the employee can recover several remedies, including back pay, front pay, lost benefits, emotional suffering and distress, and reinstatement. Certain claims may also allow for punitive damages against employers if the evidence shows that their employer’s wrongful actions were done with malice or with reckless indifference. The best way to determine whether you may have a meritorious claim for harassment or discrimination is to contact an employment attorney and discuss your personal situation with him or her.
Proving improper conduct by an employer
Harassment can be proven through things like a pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, or unique and specific instances where an employer, or management personnel, decided to treat an employee unfairly because of his or her gender, or other protected characteristics, such as age, race, religion, or sexual orientation. An experienced employment attorney will know the best way to obtain potential information and documents evidencing the employer’s illegal conduct during the discovery phase of the litigation process. An attorney can also arrange for and take depositions of the employer, where the attorney will have the opportunity to question a representative of the employer to discover additional information and obtain sworn testimonial statements that can later be used at trial.
There are specific elements that need to be shown in order to make a sexual harassment claim. These include pervasive or severe (and unwelcomed) contact based on the victim’s gender, otherwise known as hostile work environment sexual harassment, or coercive demands that a woman comply with sexual demands to keep her job or receive a promotion, often referred to as quid pro quo sexual harassment. Like all other legal claims, specific evidence needs to be presented to prove the required elements. Otherwise, the claim will probably not be successful at trial, and may be dismissed before the case even gets to trial.
Some employers may also be willing to settle a claim with an employee if there is strong evidence of harassment, and they do not want to risk investing time and money in litigating a case when it is likely they will lose at trial.
Other issues related to harassment and discrimination
It may not be obvious at first, but some female employees allow their employers to engage in illegal behavior because the employee is not aware of, or familiar with, what is required under state and federal employment law. Such issues can be identified by an experienced employment attorney. Things like wrongful termination, unpaid wages, failure to promote, or differential treatment from other similarly situated employees also tend to be associated with discrimination and harassment cases. Your lawyer should be able to identify these issues during your initial consultation.
Get in touch with a local lawyer who handles discrimination and harassment cases
To learn more about how you can be compensated after experiencing illegal conduct in the workplace, contact Anderson Barkley, LLC. Its attorneys have years of experience helping employees with many different kinds of employment issues and discrimination cases in Denver, the surrounding Denver metropolitan areas, and across Colorado.