What Should I Do If I Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment in Texas?

Every employee has the right to feel safe, respected, and free from any form of harassment while at work. When it comes to sexual harassment, this kind of negative conduct may seriously hurt not only to the victims, but to the workplace environment and overall employee morale.

Apart from the fact that sexual harassment is illegal and prohibited at work, it can leave victims feeling traumatized and carrying long-term emotional damage. When sexual harassment is reported and the employer retaliates by firing the affected employee, it can be easily identified as wrongful termination by a court of law. 

If you believe your circumstances fall under wrongful termination from reporting sexual harassment, it’s important to know what steps to take to defend yourself. There are both laws and agencies in place to protect workers from unlawful actions taken by their employers, and an experienced wrongful termination attorney can assess your workplace sexual harassment case and help you determine your rights as well as protect them.

To speak with one of our lawyers experienced in wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and employment law call 210-361-8043 today.

What Is Considered Workplace Sexual Harassment in Texas?

Workplace sexual haassment is a known form of illegal discrimination under both state and federal laws in Texas. Such harassment can take on many forms, ranging from unwanted advances to outright demands for sexual favors. Anybody can be held guilty of sexually harassing another person, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or whether the harassment is verbal or physical. It’s common for workplace sexual harassment victims to be unsure if their experiences fall under “sexual harassment”, and what exact regulations and policies can protect them.

Below are commonly seen forms of workplace sexual harassment:

  • Unwanted sexual advances such as touching, hugging, and kissing
  • Comments of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome sexual remarks, jokes, or sexual innuendos
  • Sending and sharing sexually explicit messages, emails, or images
  • Performing sexual acts on oneself or exposing oneself at work
  • Requests or threats for sexual favors
  • Sexually intimidating behaviors
  • Proposing sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits (this can be hinted at or straightforward and is known as quid pro quo)
  • Sexual assault

If any employee feels they have been subject to the listed behaviors above, we advise them to immediately report sexual harassment and begin documenting any relevant information for their case. After reporting sexual harassment, your employer has a legal obligation to investigate your complaint, along with taking action to end the harmful workplace behavior.

What Is a Hostile Work Environment in Texas?

Perceptions of what hostile behavior is can vary, but when it comes to a hostile work environment, the behavior must be severe and pervasive to hold up in a complaint or lawsuit.

A hostile work environment can occur when a worker experiences harassment, intimidation, bullying, or humiliation at work because of their gender, color, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics that place them in a protected class.

A frequent cause of a hostile work environment is sexual harassment, which can be perpetrated by any gender onto any gender. However, a single instance of sexual harassment typically won’t be seen as a hostile work environment.

Examples of hostile work environments of a sexual nature include:

  • Repeated unwanted sexual advances.
  • Continued suggestive remarks or offensive comments directed at one employee or a group of employees.
  • Catcalling.
  • Explicit request for sexual favors.
  • Sabotaging employee’s work or work-related relationships.

Both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Texas state laws have a standard for what is considered severe and pervasive conduct. To determine these factors the employment history of the company, all available evidence, and the experience of the affected worker will be taken into consideration.

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment in Texas?

The phrase “quid pro quo” is a Latin term that means “this for that.” In a work setting, it typically refers to the suggestion for an exchange of a workplace benefit for something in return.

It’s common for quid pro quo to be of a sexual nature and committed by someone in a position of power. In this situation, the target is typically put in a place where they can either comply with the request and receive a workplace benefit, or suffer consequences if they deny the request.

Potential workplace benefits offered in quid pro quo include:

  • A pay raise.
  • A promotion.
  • A recommendation.
  • Gaining employment.
  • Advancing in the interview process.
  • Preventing a demotion
  • Maintaining your employment.
  • Avoiding a transfer or any other negative employment decision.

With quid pro quo sexual harassment, such workplace benefits can either be offered or threatened by an employee in exchange for a sexual favor. It’s common for the harasser to be a manager, supervisor, superior, or CEO, but quid pro quo can be done by a coworker as a form of blackmail or coercion. As well, quid pro quo can be indirect when a superior offers a client a sexual favor from another employee as a way to secure a deal.

An employer can be liable for quid pro quo harassment if the perpetrator was given workplace authority, so it’s important for employers to make sure the people they have in management can be trusted.

Quid pro quo tends to become a “he said, she said” dispute, so it’s crucial to gather evidence quickly if you have experienced it. In the case you’ve been subject to quid pro quo sexual harassment, reported it, and ultimately lost your job, it could be considered wrongful termination entitling you to serious compensation.

What to Do if You Have Been Fired After Reporting Sexual Harassment

If you have been a victim of workplace sexual harassment and made a complaint, only to end up losing your job for it, we urge to you consider the following:

Know the Law

As an “at-will employment” state, employers can fire an employee at any time for any reason, as long as it is lawful. If an employee is fired for an unlawful reason, it can be considered wrongful termination. Retaliation by an employer against a worker who engages in any protected activity, such as reporting sexual harassment, is considered unlawful.

Record and Gather Evidence

If you were terminated after filing a complaint of sexual harassment, it’s time to start documenting everything that could be relevant to your case. In any incident of sexual harassment, we advise our clients to start collecting any relevant information as soon as they feel that they are experiencing harassment. This can include emails, letters, or any other communications, as well as any negative employer actions, such as changes in your pay, hours, job responsibilities, and the tasks given to you at work.

When providing evidence for wrongful termination it is crucial to display a connection between the protected employee action (in this case reporting sexual harassment) and the adverse employment actions (being fired). This may come in the form of describing how your employer had a big shift in attitude towards you or revealing a company history of retaliation against employees filing sexual harassment.

In the case that your employer denies your claim, and makes a counterclaim that your termination was for a legitimate reason, you must demonstrate clearly how the termination was connected to the complaint you filed.

Speak With a Lawyer

We advise speaking with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer as soon as you suspect you are being sexually harassed. If you are fired after filing a sexual harassment complaint, we can’t stress enough the importance of speaking with a lawyer as soon as possible.

A qualified San Antonio sexual harassment attorney can assess your situation, help you determine your options, and guide you through the legal process of seeking compensation for the injustice of being fired while exercising your protected employee rights.

File a Complaint

If you fear that your employer retaliated against you for reporting sexual harassment, there are agencies established to protect you. Both the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforce anti-discrimination laws, which includes laws pertaining to employer retaliation and sexual harassment. Before filing a lawsuit, an employee must file a complaint with the TWC or EEOC.

File a Lawsuit

Once the appropriate agency has assessed your complaint and deemed there is sufficient evidence of retaliation, you can move forward by filing a lawsuit. An sexual harassment attorney can help you file a lawsuit; if you are successful, you may receive compensation for your lost pay, your emotional suffering, litigation costs, as well as punitive damages.

Consider a Settlement

If your former employer is compliant, a settlement can save you time, money, and the stress of heading to court. But in order to assess if the settlement is both equitable and fair, it’s crucial to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer.

Get Support

Workplace sexual harassment is hard enough on employees, but when it results in being fired out of retaliation, it can cause serious mental distress. We advise our clients to seek support from close friends, family, as well as mental health professionals. At The Galo Law Firm, we strive to support our clients both legally and emotionally and encourage our clients to put their mental well-being first. Victims should know that being fired for reporting harassment is not only unfair but also unlawful. Fortunately, there are laws, rules, and organizations in place to both protect and support you.

What Are the Laws Against Workplace Sexual Harassment?

In Texas, workplace sexual harassment is prohibited by both state and federal laws including:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – Title VII prohibits any discrimination on the basis of sex which extends to sexual harassment. Companies with 15 or more employees are subject to this act.

Texas Commission on Human Rights Act – Like Title VII, this act prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment, and applies to companies with 15 or more employees.

Texas Labor Code – Under the Texas labor code, all employees are protected from sex discrimination and harassment. This applies to all employees and employers regardless of company size.

All employers are legally obligated to investigate complaints of sexual harassment as well as take measures to avoid and end such workplace conduct.

Who Can Be Liable for Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Under Texas law, the fault of sexual harassment can fall onto employers, employees, and other parties regardless of their authority in the workplace.

Employers – An employer can be held responsible for workplace sexual harassment whether they were aware of it or should have been aware of the harassment. If an employer fails to stop harassment in the workplace, they can be found responsible. Similarly, if the harassment was committed by a supervisor or manager within the company the employer can be liable.

Supervisors and Managers – Supervisors tend to be the people employers work most closely with compared to their employers or company owners. If supervisors or managers sexually harass employees, clients, or any co-worker they can be found liable along with their employer.

Colleagues – Although less common, colleagues can be held responsible for sexual harassment. In these cases, sexual harassment may be a form of blackmail or a way to gain employment benefits over their co-worker.

Third Parties – Any third party including vendors, customers, and clients who sexually harass a worker can be reported.

Contractors – In the case a contractor or other temporary employee committed sexual harassment, they can be found responsible along with the employer who hired them. This can depend on the control the employer has over the temporary employee, but in most cases, the employer can be held responsible for not protecting their employees.

The liability of sexual harassment is unique to each case, and depending on the specifics of the harassment, liability can shift or extend to multiple parties. However, the obligation to investigate sexual harassment lies with the employer, and if they fail to take proper action against it or retaliate against a complaint, they can be found responsible.

Damages for Wrongful Termination

If you and your legal team establish that unlawful motives were behind your termination, you can be entitled to serious financial compensation. The damages available to you depend on your case and what legal claims you pursue.

Damages can include:

  • Back pay – Any wages and benefits the employee lost to being wrongfully terminated.
  • Front pay – Any wages and benefits the employees would have gained if they were not wrongfully terminated.
  • Compensatory Damages – These damages are to compensate the employee for what they have endured and extend to emotional distress, trauma, humiliation, and harm caused by both the sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
  • Punitive damages – If your former employer broke the law, you may be entitled to seek punitive damages against them. These damages are a way of penalizing your employer for their unlawful behavior, as well as deterring such behavior from happening in the first place.
  • Reinstatement – If an employee wants to get their job back, they can be reinstated to their former position if their case is successful.

The total amount of damages awarded to a victim vary depending on the case. To find out what damages you could be entitled to and how to pursue legal action to get them, schedule a no-cost consultation with an experienced employment lawyer at The Galo Law Firm today.

In wrongful termination cases and lawsuits, it’s common for employers to have an upper hand when it comes to resources and aids. Working with a skilled sexual harassment attorney is the best strategy for protecting yourself and seeking justice against your former boss.

How to Prove That Your Employer Retaliated Against You

Retaliating against an employee for engaging in a protected activity, such as reporting workplace sexual harassment, is against the law and can result in serious repercussions for an employer. To establish a case against your employer you will need to demonstrate the following elements:

A Sexual Harassment Claim Was Filed – Whether the complaint was made directly to your employer or to a government agency, there must be evidence that you reported the sexual harassment that you experienced.

Adverse Employment Action – It must be proven that your employer took adverse employment action against you, in this case, firing. Other adverse employment actions before your termination can be relevant, such as demotions, a loss of benefits, or a change in pay. However, this negative action must be connected to the complaint you made.

Establish a Connection – An employee must prove that the adverse employment action was done due to the complaint they made. This may be difficult due to circumstantial evidence, but is a crucial part of defending a case.

Provide Evidence – Any evidence that can support your claim should be gathered and compiled in a way that best defends your case. Timing can be a crucial factor in the evidence, and if your termination closely followed your complaint, that can now be to your benefit.

Working with a reputable employment lawyer can ensure that your case is substantial when you finally face your former employer, whether that’s in a settlement or a court of law.

What Is the Deadline for Filing a Claim?

The deadline can vary due to the type of claim filed. For wrongful termination as well as workplace sexual harassment cases, the statute of limitation for filing with the EEOC is 180 days from the date of the incident. If pursued under state law with the TWC, the deadline can extend to 300 days from the date of the incident. Only after filing with one of these agencies can an employee move forward with filing a lawsuit. Workers are allowed to cross-file with both agencies if necessary.

Schedule a Consultation With a Qualified San Antonio Workplace Sexual Harassment Attorney Today

If you believe you have been subject to wrongful termination following a sexual harassment complaint, The Galo Law Firm can help. Every Texas employee deserves their employee rights to be fully protected from both wrongful termination and any type of workplace harassment. The behavior isn’t only wrong, it’s illegal, and if you can build a strong case against your employer, both compensation and justice could be brought to you.

At The Galo Law Firm, our team knows the ins and outs of Texas employment law and can advise you on any employment law-related issue. Our law firm is committed to protecting our client’s rights and interests to the fullest, always fighting to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.

Don’t overlook unjust actions in the workplace, speak with an employment lawyer at The Galo Law Firm today to determine your rights. Call 210-361-8043.

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