Morrin Law Office
Kentucky Workplace Sexual Harassment
In the modern workplace, where individuals spend a significant portion of their lives, one unfortunate reality continues to cast a dark shadow: sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is a scenario that far too many employees experience at their place of work. This type of harassment can take many forms, including lewd or sexually suggestive comments, off-colored language or jokes of sexual nature, any sexually suggestive physical conduct, or the display of sexually explicit images.
The emotional and psychological toll on victims is immeasurable, often leading to a hostile work environment, mental health struggles, and career setbacks. Luckily there is hope and recourse for those who have experienced such injustice. Both Kentucky and Federal laws protect individuals from being harassed at their job. If an employee feels as if they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, they may take civil action through a lawsuit.
The importance of hiring an attorney to represent a sexual harassment claim cannot be overstated. It is a crucial step towards not only seeking justice, but also reclaiming your life from the trauma of harassment. Workplace sexual harassment cases can be complex and challenging, with victims often facing disbelief, retaliation, or victim-blaming. To win back the resulting damages and hold the responsible parties accountable, consider hiring the experienced attorneys with Morrin Law Firm.
What is Sexual Harassment?
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There are two types of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo and hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo is translated from Latin as “in exchange for” or “this for that.” The Kentucky Personnel Cabinet defines it as “something for something.” In relation to sexual harassment, quid pro quo occurs when a subordinate suffers a “tangible diverse action” as a result of the subordinate’s refusal to submit to the sexual demands of an employer or higher-up co-worker.
In other words, it is considered the imbalance of power in a work environment where sexual favors are offered or threatened to either sustain your position, receive a raise, or as any part of their employment.
Examples of Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment include the following:
- Unwanted advances – The victim is continuously asked on dates by their boss despite stating their lack of interest.
- Unequal employment treatment – The employer offers certain benefits to employees who entertain or reciprocate sexual conduct or refuses to provide benefits for employees who do not.
- Unwanted physical contact – The employer touches the victim without their consent or does any unwanted physical actions.
If you have experienced conduct in the workplace that constitutes as quid pro quo, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. There is no need to prove an extended period of harassment; a single quid pro quo incident can be grounds for a lawsuit.
A hostile work environment is when a person’s place of work has generated feelings of discomfort, fear, or intimidation in the workplace due to unwelcome conduct. This can include sexual advances, inappropriate language, or other actions which make an employee feel endangered or uncomfortable.
Examples of hostile work environment sexual harassment include the following:
- Transmission of sexually explicit images – The victim receives unwanted, explicit photos from their employer or co-worker.
- Displaying sexual or offensive jokes – An employer or co-worker displays cartoonish images depicting pornography or sexually charged cartoons.
- Makes inappropriate sexual jokes – An employer or co-worker makes sexist remarks or usually sexually charged language when referring to any employee.
- Makes inappropriate remarks about sexual activity – An employer or co-worker outwardly speaks about sexual conduct, their own sexual activity, or the sexual activity of others.
If you have experienced conduct in the workplace that constitutes a hostile work environment, you may have ground for a lawsuit. The employer or company can be held liable for any hostile work environment harassment when the victim was subjected to a pattern of exposure to unwanted sexual conduct from their supervisor or other co-worker where the direct supervisor failed to stop or prevent such unwanted behavior.
Kentucky Statute Section 35.679 explains that a person is guilty of sexual harassment if they:
- Influence, offers to influence, or threatens to influence the career, reputation, pay, or job of another person in exchange for sexual favors;
- Make a deliberate or repeated unwanted offensive comment or gesture of sexually explicit nature toward, or in the presence of, another person; or
- Display or transmit to another person, without legal justification or lawful authorization, imagery of a sexually explicit nature.
As stated on the EEOC’s page, it is unlawful for any person to harass an applicant or employee based on their sex. They further explain that harassment is illegal when it is “so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision” (such as the victim getting fired or demoted from their position).
What is Constructive Discharge?
When an employee has faced sexual harassment in the workplace that becomes so intolerable that it forces them to quit their job, it is considered constructive discharge.
The grounds for an employee’s resignation to be considered constructive discharge include the following:
- The victim was sexually harassed in their workplace by a coworker or employee;
- The victim complained to their immediate supervisor, boss, or human resource department without a change in behavior;
- The sexual harassment continued in the workplace or became so upsetting that any reasonable person would rather quit than remain working in such environment; and
- The sexual harassment and resignation took place around the same time or within proximity to each other.
When this occurs, the employer may be held liable for the damages caused resulting in the constructive discharge. If you believe that you had to leave your job in Kentucky due to constructive discharge, you may have a claim. Contact the attorneys with Morrin Law Firm to discuss the details of your case.
Example Cases of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
- Kentucky 2019 Case – A Kentucky police lieutenant was awarded $1.2 million in a sexual harassment case against another co-worker. The local report indicated that Louisville Metro Police Lt. Jill Hume accused Robert Shadle, another deputy with LMDP, of sending her an unsolicited image of his genitals to her. Hume also alleged that Shadle would drive around the areas where she regularly did foot patrols while he was off duty. Despite filing two no-contact orders, Shadle was still allowed to attend the same work meetings and work on some of the same details. In her claim, Hume accused the department of failing to protect her from another officer who she believed was stalking her. When she reported the incident to her major, Hume says the major instead warned her that reporting the incident would make her name go public, further defending Shadle by saying that he didn’t mean to send her the illicit image. LMDP Chief Steve Conrad argued that the no-contact order did not include preventing the two employees from working in the same areas as one another. Hume won the case, resulting in her being awarded $1.2 million in damages. Her attorney called the jury’s decision, “more than satisfying.”
- Federal 2022 Case – The casual dining chain, Red Robin International, Inc. was sued by the EEOC for their violation of federal law preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. According to their report, the EEOC stated that a line cook with the Everett, Washington location of Red Robin was sexually harassing female employees repeatedly by telling them offensive comments, making remarks about their bodies, and touching them without their consent. When the victims objected to the line cook’s inappropriate conduct, he resulted to calling them sexist slurs and directly interfering with their ability to complete their job. There were multiple reports made to management about the employee’s conduct, but the supervisors failed to take effective action to stop the harassment. The EEOC indicated that they attempted to first resolve the issue through a pre-litigation settlement, but then ended up filing a lawsuit against the company. One of EEOC’s field officers explained that once an employee makes a complaint regarding sexual harassment, their employers are required by law to investigate and take the necessary measures to stop and prevent future acts of sexual harassment. The following is a statement by EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che regarding the case:
“When one female employee complained abut sexual harassment, Red Robin’s General Manager told her that the harasser just got out of jail and that is just the type of person he is. Not only is this an offensive assertion regarding ex-offenders, but failing to take action violates the law. No one gets a free pass to sexually harass.”
How Do You Prove Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
To prove that you have been sexually harassed in your workplace, it is important that you gather evidence that is indicative of the harassment. You should also consider hiring an attorney who is experienced in workplace lawsuits for sexual harassment. When you hire Morrin Law to represent your case, we may request that you collect the following evidence:
- Any record of communication from the harasser, including emails, text messages, voicemails, or communication received outside of work;
- A record of the sexual harassment complaint filed with the company or employer;
- Information regarding your employment file;
- The handbook from the company or employer, which includes their sexual harassment policy;
- Testimony from witnesses;
- Photos or videos from the incident; and
- Any expenses related to the harassment.
Can Your Employer Retaliate Against You for Reporting Sexual Harassment?
Employees are protected under both Kentucky and Federal law from any retaliation from their employer after reporting claims of sexual harassment. The Kentucky Personnel Cabinet explains that complaints of harassment, “will be promptly and carefully investigated, and all employees are assured that they will be free from any and all reprisal or retaliation from filing such complaints.”
Retaliation is defined as the occurrence of a negative action due to a victim reporting their experience of harassment.
The three essential elements of retaliation include:
- Protected activity – Opposition to discrimination or participation in the statutory complaint process.
- Adverse actions – Denial of promotion, job benefits, demotion, suspension, termination, reprimands, or negative evaluations.
- Casual connection – Between the protected activity and the adverse action.
Retaliation is illegal, even if the investigation into the alleged sexual harassment case is proven to be false. If an employer or co-worker attempts to retaliate against you after making a sexual harassment complaint, you should consult Morrin Law Firm.
Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Kentucky
Sexual harassment in the workplace should never be taken lightly. The attorneys with Morrin Law are committed to helping those in Kentucky who have unfortunately experienced this type of incident. Our goal is to assist you with practical legal guidance and to help you win back the damages caused by harassment.
When you contact us at (859) 358-0300, we’ll provide you with a free case evaluation. We will only take on your case if we believe we can add significant value to it. We prefer to do things our way, and we believe our clients love that about us. Reach out to our attorneys today to get started on your claim.