Sexual harassment is not acceptable in the workplace or anywhere else and victims may be entitled to compensation through damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, comments or actions of a sexual nature or offensive comments about one’s gender.
Sexual harassment damages
Damages for sexual harassment are awarded based on the sort of harm the victim has or is still suffering. Some types of damages include:
- Back pay and front pay for lost wages due to time taken off of work after or during the harassment
- Pain and suffering damages meant to compensate the victim for the emotional upset caused by the harassment
- Compensatory damages for expenses caused by the harassment such as counseling and job searches
- Punitive damages levied against an employer or school administration who failed to protect or defend the victim are available in some states but not Washington.
If a victim of sexual harassment was denied a raise, refused a promotion or fired as a result of sexual harassment they may be entitled to back pay. Back pay is compensation for the wages, benefits and other compensation the victim would have earned from the time of the employer’s harmful decision up to the date of a jury award, called a “judgment”.
Under federal law, a person who lost their job or had to quit because they were being sexually harassed may have the right to be “reinstated” into their position. When reinstatement is impossible or undesirable, the victim may be eligible for an award called “front pay” instead of reinstatement. Front pay is intended to compensate the victim for any wage loss they are likely to suffer from the date of the judgment into the future. The jury will factor how long the person would have stayed in their position had they not been sexually harassed and how long it may take them to find a similar job.
Compensatory damages are compensation for:
- Emotional distress suffered – legally called “pain and suffering”,
- Any harm to the person’s reputation,
- and any out-of-pocket costs caused by the harassment such as medical bills and job search costs.
There are federal and state laws around compensatory and punitive damages in sexual harassment lawsuits; as stated, punitive damages are not available for victims in Washington State. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, seek the advice of a qualified personal injury lawyer who can assess the facts of your situation and advise the best way to proceed. He or she will also help you decide what claims are most advantageous to you.
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