Why is sexual harassment so difficult to prove?

| Aug 27, 2019 | sexual harassment |

If you have become the victim of sexual harassment at your Pennsylvania workplace, the experience likely has turned your life upside down. Depending on who is harassing you and what tactics (s)he uses, what you may have originally thought was merely workplace horsing around, however uncomfortable it may have made you, has now progressed to the point where you literally hate having to go to work each day.

Unfortunately, to add insult to injury, proving sexual harassment in a workplace discrimination lawsuit can pose extremely difficult problems for you. In order to win your suit, you will need to present clear and convincing evidence to the court that the words and actions your colleague used to harass you rose considerably above the level of mere irritation. In fact, your evidence must prove that those words and actions caused you to suffer actual damages.

Sexual harassment types

Per a CNN report, sexual harassment can take one of two forms: a hostile work environment and quid pro quo. Of the two, quid pro quo represents the more specific type, and true to this Latin phrase’s literal meaning of “this for that,” the person who harasses you is someone who has power over you in the workplace, such as your supervisor, your boss, etc. (S)he misuses this power by, for instance, soliciting your sexual favors in exchange for giving you a promotion or otherwise enhancing your career with the company. Conversely, (s)he may solicit your sexual favors in exchange for not demoting you or otherwise sabotaging your company’s advancement.

Unlike a quid quo pro situation, a hostile work environment situation represents a more generalized form of sexual harassment and therefore of workplace discrimination. Here the perpetrator offers you nothing. Instead, (s)he simply speaks or acts inappropriately toward you.

Overcoming “he said, she said”

Naturally, the person harassing you will vehemently deny that (s)he did so. Therefore, to enhance the chances of winning your sexual harassment lawsuit, you should begin documenting the following as soon as a colleague begins harassing you at work:

  • His or her name
  • The dates on which (s)he harasses you
  • His or her precise words and actions
  • Who, if anyone, other than you observed these words and actions
  • How the harassment made you feel and the way in which it impacted negatively on your productivity

In addition, you should inform the proper person, such as one of your company’s HR professionals, about the harassment as soon as it begins and while it continues.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.