Harassment Lawyers in Tacoma Defending Clients Accused of Inappropriate Behavior
The state of Washington has called the prevention of serious instances of personal harassment to be an ‘important government objective.’ Washington has taken steps over recent decades to raise awareness about harassment so that victims understand their rights and, hopefully, these types of criminal charges become rarer over time. Instances of discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation from an employer, and other examples of conduct that causes a person emotional distress or threatens their livelihood can result in legal action that seeks to hold the harasser accountable for their actions in a court of law.
If you’ve been accused of harassment, it is important that you know you have rights as well. First among them is your right to hire a harassment lawyer experienced with cases such as these to provide you with legal representation in and out of court. Whether you’re guilty or innocent of the alleged harassment, you must respect these charges, as the penalties can be severe and negatively impact your future and the future of your employment.
Though not as damning an indictment of a person’s character as an assault charge, a sexual harassment claim can determine how your future plays out from here, and it is vitally important that you take steps to get ahead of these charges and start building your defense now. At our law firm in Tacoma, WA, our attorneys have years of experience representing clients against charges of harassment in the workplace and other social environments.
Do not delay building your criminal defense. Schedule a free consultation with the harassment lawyers of South Bound Law Group today for legal guidance on how to take the next steps in defending your case. You may call our law offices at 253-383-3328.
How is Harassment Defined by the Law in the State of Washington?
Harassment laws may vary slightly from state to state, so it is important that you speak with an attorney familiar with the laws specific to Washington.
Harassment can create a hostile work environment, and most examples of someone being discriminated against or sexually harassed do seem to come from a place of employment. However, harassment does not need to be restricted to the workplace.
We also typically tend to think of sexual harassment, such as making unwanted sexual advances, telling inappropriate sexual jokes, and asking for sexual favors. These examples of sexual harassment are typically an example of an abuse of power, too — such as an employer or a supervisor making comments of a sexual nature to one of their employees.
But harassment can also extend to threats of violence, threats to damage property, or threats to cause mental distress and anguish. The harasser’s ‘words or conduct’ must place the supposed victim in a place of reasonable fear that the threats may in fact be carried out.
Stalking, cyberstalking, threats made over the internet or telephone or text message, harassment of a hateful or bigoted nature, and violating a no-contact order is also illegal and can result in criminal charges.
The harassment of a ‘criminal justice participant’ may result in harsher consequences, as these individuals are recognized as representing elements of state and federal law. Examples of criminal justice participants include any law enforcement employees or officers, an attorney, a staff member for either an adult or juvenile corrections facility, and probation officers.
What Are the Different Types of Sexual Harassment Claims in a Work Environment?
It is unfortunate, but there are more examples of sexual harassment in the workplace than we can attempt to list here. Perhaps there are so many sexual harassment claims originating from places of employment because it is not a simple matter of a harasser making inappropriate propositions for sex in a place like a party or a bar, where each person has relatively more equal standing. In the workplace, there is a hierarchy; the employers stand above the employees and every employee can be reminded of this whenever their employment is threatened.
A supervisor or an employer has some authority over their employees and can sometimes feel they’re allowed to get away with certain behavior because they may threaten to fire their victims if word ever gets out.
But that’s not to say that those on equal footings, such as employees of the same job and rank, do not commit sexual harassment. While we hear more stories of a supervisor being the harasser, there are many examples where an employee is accused of sexual harassment by a co-worker.
Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include:
- Demeaning language or behavior that targets an employee’s gender.
- Making discriminatory comments that could be viewed as racist, sexist, ageist, queerphobic, ableist, or insulting towards another person’s religion or lack thereof.
- Offensive gestures and offensive physical conduct.
- Pornographic materials in the workplace are on display expressly to cause discomfort or are ignorant of the discomfort being caused.
- Quid pro quo is when a supervisor or employer makes promises for promotion or professional opportunities in exchange for sexual favors.
- Repeated unwanted requests for dates, sex, and social interactions.
- Sending a lewd or pornographic text message.
- Sex can be consensual and still not be willing. Victims who feel coerced into sexual activity with an unwanted partner for fear of punishment or loss of employment may have a valid sexual harassment claim.
- Sexually suggestive jokes, humor, and pranks, either in person, online or in a text message.
- Spreading rumors, or the threat to spread rumors, of a sexual nature.
- Unwanted touching.
If you’re facing charges, it is important that you speak with a sexual harassment lawyer right away. Our law firm is based in Tacoma and has years of experience representing clients across western Washington state in the legal issues of sexual harassment. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
What Might Not Be Considered Sexual Harassment?
Even when an act technically qualifies as sexual harassment, there are examples where it may not be considered conduct that is punishable as a legal matter.
Examples of claims that may be dismissed:
- Conduct that other employees and witnesses believed that the supposed victim actually encouraged or welcomed.
- Conduct that was directed at all people, regardless of gender or status, could potentially be dismissed depending on the very particular circumstances at play.
- If the sexual harassment was committed by a co-worker, there may be limitations for holding the harasser accountable, and other legal actions may need to be considered other than a workplace sexual harassment claim.
- Isolated trivial incidents committed by a specific individual that, upon being told were unwanted or inappropriate, were not repeated.
- Religious organizations are sometimes held exempt from certain laws regarding employment, discrimination, and what a victim may perceive to be harassment.
Who May Be Held Liable for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Washington state views workplace sexual harassment as an act of illegal sexual discrimination. In workplace sexual harassment cases, sometimes the harasser is not the only one who may be held accountable legally in a criminal lawsuit. Even if the employer or supervisor was not directly involved in the harassment of an employee or person at the place of work, they could still be held liable if they were aware (or should have been aware) of the sexual harassment and did nothing to stop in a prompt and effective manner.
Unions and employment agencies may also face charges for harassment that are allowed to continue.
Employers may be if it can be shown that they did not thoroughly and promptly investigate a sexual harassment claim made by one of their employees. Employers should also make efforts to establish well-understood policies for behavior and procedures to follow if an employee ever acts against policy.
In 2019, the Washington Supreme Court said that an employer could be held directly responsible if an employee sexually harasses a customer or member of the public. Similarly, the employer or manager may be held liable if an employee harassed a member of the public by discriminating against them for their race, gender, sexuality, religion, or physical or mental disability.
If you are facing legal consequences for the acts of one of your employees, speak with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer at South Sound Law Group today.
Can You Be Held Liable for Discrimination Against a Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation?
In Washington state, hate crimes, bias crimes, and malicious harassment are interchangeable terms, all essentially meaning the same thing: targeted harassment based on views informed by one’s discrimination against another group of people.
Examples of malicious harassment in Washington include harassing another person based on their:
- Color of their skin.
- Gender identity.
- Marital status.
- Mental, physical, or sensory disability or impairment.
- National origin.
- Parental status.
- Political ideals.
- Sexual orientation.
Even if the harasser mistakenly chose their victim because of a group status that the victim did not in fact belong to, the harasser can still be charged with malicious harassment.
If the discriminatory words were used in the act of another crime, this is not malicious harassment. Similarly, if the words were used, but the victims never felt that they or their property were under threat, then this may be discrimination, but it is unlikely to be legally charged as a hate crime or malicious harassment.
Schedule a free consultation with the attorneys of South Sound Law Group to determine what approach to legal defense is most well-suited to helping you avoid costly fines and jail time.
Contact Our Washington Law Firm to Schedule a Free Consultation with Sexual Harassment Attorneys Today
Harassment claims are a serious matter that, even if you are found innocent in court, could still deal lasting damage to your reputation and your work. Sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct need not ever even be spoken aloud or in-person to result in dire consequences. Today, a text message that depicts discrimination or sexual harassment can be enough to make for a damning case.
That’s why it is so important that you work with an attorney from a firm experienced in the matters of harassment violations and accusations.
You may schedule a confidential, no-obligation free consultation with an attorney from our firm so that you can determine whether they are the right lawyer to suit your needs.
Contact the Tacoma, WA South Sound Law Group today and speak with an attorney on our legal team today by calling us at 253-383-3328.