In the state of Ohio, everyone has duties and rights to protect against sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of what industry they’re in, or what their job title is. A sexual harassment lawsuit can cause massive punitive damages to a victim, and drastically change the reputation of a business or individual.
These lawsuits can carry huge consequences, so if you’ve been involved with a sexual harassment incident, seeking assistance from an experienced attorney is imperative.
Sexual harassment laws in Ohio
Like many areas of law, awareness and sentiments surrounding sexual harassment have significantly evolved in Ohio, as things like the #metoo movement gain traction, and as media continue to cover it more frequently than before.
The state of Ohio doesn’t have a specific law that explicitly defines sexual harassment, but it does have laws that consider sexual harassment a form of sex discrimination, which is illegal at the federal and state levels.
There are usually two types of sexual harassment in the workplace:
- A sexually hostile work environment
- Quid-pro-quo sexual harassment
A case that involves a sexually hostile work environment can involve a wide range of incidents, such as:
- Rude or sexually aggressive comments, which come as texts, emails, or speech.
- Unwanted sexual advances, for example, touching, patting, or more something more extreme
- Stalking, constantly following someone around, waiting by their car at the end of the day, spamming their phone, etc.
A case that involves a quid-pro-quo type of sexual harassment is where someone is pressured into sexual favors or relations in exchange for a job benefit. These types of cases usually involve someone higher ranking, like a CEO or manager, putting pressure on someone below them.
Consentual vs. Non-consensual
Consent is the main thing the courts will have to examine in order to determine whether or not the lawsuit carries weight. This is because not all sexual activity in the workplace is automatically considered “sexual harassment.”
In order for an incident to be considered sexual harassment, plaintiffs need to provide reasonable evidence that what happened to them was non-consensual, against their will, and that the aggressor was well aware of what they were doing. A one time compliment or text message is not considered sexual harassment, and neither is a consensual relationship or “hook up.”
Dealing with sexual harassment in Ohio
When an incident of sexual harassment occurs in the state of Ohio, a plaintiff must first file a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Most of the time, filing with these organizations and receiving a right-to-sue letter is required before filing a federal lawsuit. It’s not necessary for filing with the state’s courts but can add credence to your lawsuit before the courts see it, therefore it is recommended.