Can I sue the owner of my company for sexual harassment?
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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013
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Harassment by anyone at work can give rise to a sexual harassment lawsuit, especially if the behavior is exhibited by the owner of the company. Since a company is, of course, not a living person, the “company” essentially is made up of the people who work at and run it, especially the owner, CEO, CFO, president or anyone else in a leadership position. As such, if the owner of the company is behaving inappropriately toward you or displaying signs of harassment, you may have a cause of action for a sexual harassment lawsuit and you may be able to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or file a civil suit to collect damages.
Sexual harassment can take two main forms: “quid pro quo harassment” and “hostile work environment harassment.”
If the owner of the company is offering you a promotion, advancement, employment security, or any other special benefits in exchange for performing sexual favors, this is an example of quid pro quo harassment. It’s important to note that even if you do engage in sexual behavior in order to get the promotion, job security, etc., this doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from making a successful sexual harassment claim.
If, on the other hand, the owner is repeatedly making unwanted advances, or is creating an environment where you feel uncomfortable on the basis of your gender or his behavior, then this can be an example of a hostile work environment harassment. For example, if the company owner encourages a culture where employees are degrading to someone based on his or her sex, or a environment where sexually explicit jokes are made on a routine basis, and if this corporate culture is upsetting and/or damaging to you in any way, you may be able to make a claim on the basis of that hostile work environment.
If you believe you are the victim of any type of harassment, you have legal rights and it’s in your best interest to talk to a lawyer immediately.