Harassment only occurs when conduct is unwelcome to the victim. Sexual conduct that a person consents to or welcomes is not harassment. In sexual harassment cases where the defendant does not deny the sexual conduct, the defendant can argue that the alleged victim of sexual harassment permitted, wanted, welcomed, or consented to the sexual conduct. The victim will lose the lawsuit if the defendant proves this. In many sexual harassment cases, only the victim and the harasser are witnesses to the conduct in question. This can make proving consent (or lack of consent) difficult.
If you intend to sue over sexual harassment, you must bring to the attention of your attorney any evidence that you were friendly with the people you accuse of sexual harassment. If you dated them, went out for drinks with them, celebrated holidays with them, visited their homes or invited them to your home, complimented them, or admired them, you must bring this information to your lawyer. The defendant will argue that such evidence contradicts your lawsuit in which you are portraying the defendant or your former boss or coworker as a villain. If you left any voice mail messages saying nice things about the targets of your lawsuit, let your lawyer know immediately. If you left a voice-mail message for your former supervisor after he fired you telling him he is wonderful and you don’t hold a grudge against him, you must tell your attorney. If you went to a karaoke bar with the person you accuse of harassment, you must tell your attorney. If you invited the man who harassed you to your child’s birthday party, you must tell your lawyer. Even if you exchanged joke email and text messages with the harasser, you must show your representative the messages. Failure to do so may prevent your lawyer from effectively preparing you to overcome a “consent” defense at trial.
Not only is sexual harassment illegal. The law also prohibits:
- Racial harassment
- Religious harassment
- Age-based harassment
- Harassment based on disability
- Harassment based on ethnicity or national origin
Most people are familiar with workplace sexual harassment claims. Harassment in professional, business, and educational relationships are also illegal.