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Ask a Sexual Harassment Lawyer: 6 Steps for Preparing Your Case

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Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still common. Victims may experience overwhelming and confusing emotions, which is why it’s so important to hire a sexual harassment lawyer as soon as possible.

Under federal law and Missouri law, a victim of sexual harassment is entitled to protection and different types of compensation. Here are some of the most important steps to follow to prepare your case.

6 Steps for Preparing Your Case

1. Hire an Attorney

While the law is clear on what constitutes sexual harassment, it can be challenging to prove that it happened to you. Therefore, the first step is to find a lawyer that can help you understand your rights, the type of evidence that you’ll need to provide, and the court process.

To find Kansas City sexual harassment lawyers, you can ask for recommendations or http://www.kdh-law.com/employment-law/discrimination-harassment/sexual-harassment/research the Missouri Bar Association databases. We highly recommend setting up a few first consultations (which are usually free) to find someone you trust and with who you can communicate easily.

2. Notify Your Employer

Before you can begin a legal process, you need to notify your employer/supervisor. According to Missouri law, after receiving a sexual harassment complaint, your employer must start an internal investigation and provide you with accommodations to help you feel safe. If their investigation proves the harassment, they need to create a strategy to correct the behavior, including activities such as training, policy changes, and disciplinary actions.

It’s important to report sexual harassment in writing and that someone in a position of power signs or stamps your report. You should keep a copy of the signed report in a safe place.

3. Document Everything

The first thing you need to do when you are a victim of sexual harassment is to document your case and start gathering evidence that you’ll need to provide further along.

Start by keeping a file with all electronic communications, such as text messages and emails, and ask for a copy of your formal internal complaint. It also helps to write down everything that happened so you don’t forget any details if you need to proceed with a lawsuit.

We recommend gathering contact information of any witnesses to the harassment, such as coworkers or contractors. Under the Human Rights Protection Act, no employer can retaliate against employees who serve as witnesses to a human rights violation.

4. File a Complaint with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights

In Missouri, sexual harassment complaints must be filed within 180 days from when the harassment happens. To file the complaint, you need to fill out the complaint assessment (available on the MCHA website). After you finish the assessment, you’ll be given instructions on proceeding.

After reviewing documentation from your case, the MCHA may start an investigation in which they can interview you, the harasser, and other key players in your case (such as supervisors, HR, and coworkers). If the case is still open 180 days after you filed the complaint, you may request a “Notice of Right to Sue,” which allows you to file a lawsuit (against the harasser, and sometimes, the employer) in court.

5. File a Lawsuit

Once you have the notice of right to sue, you may file a formal lawsuit with the state court. If you decide to take your case to court, and if you win, you may:

  1. Get economic compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
  2. Get an economic compensation in the form of punitive damages if you can prove that your employer acted with malice or indifference to your claims.
  3. Force your employer to change their practices to create a safe working environment for yourself and your coworkers
  4. Be reinstated at your job (if you were fired as a result of the assault or as a form of retaliation)

It’s essential to have a lawyer represent you in court, explain the process, and help you gather the evidence and correctly fill out the required paperwork. You should never accept a settlement offer or speak to your employer’s lawyer or insurance company without your attorney present.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

According to the Missouri Department of Labor, sexual harassment is “a form of sex discrimination based on sexually explicit behaviors,” which may include:

  • Sexually explicit or vulgar comments or jokes
  • Inappropriate or unwanted touching
  • Inappropriate comments about your appearance
  • Sexual Assault (which is also considered a felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of the actions)

Even if what you’re going through does not appear on the above list, if you are uncomfortable, you should speak up. Many victims of sexual assault feel vulnerable and afraid but unable to recognize the conduct towards them as sexual. It’s important to note that what matters in a case of sexual harassment is how the victim feels and not the harasser’s “intentions.”

The first step towards a successful outcome (in court and the workplace) is understanding your rights and seeking professional help to fight for them.

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