Unwanted Touching Or Grabbing Harassment Attorneys

Unwelcome Touching or Grabbing at Work: You’re Not Alone

A community college professor in Tennessee was accused of pulling students onto his lap, holding them close, and even giving one a “wedgie,” where he reached down her pants to pull up her underwear. A state senator in Oregon was forced to resign after allegations that he had groped and repeatedly engaged in unwanted physical contact with several women in the state Capitol building, including at least one woman senator. Managers and cooks at a pancake restaurant in Illinois were sued for inappropriate touching of wait staff; their actions included pushing women up against a cooler wall, slapping their buttocks, and grabbing them by the waist as they simulated sex acts.

These are just three of the many news stories that surfaced in the first part of 2018 about unwanted touching or grabbing in the workplace. The problem isn’t uncommon; more than 25 percent of women, and in some estimates, as many as 85 percent, have been harassed at work. The gap is so wide because so many people do not report or talk about the unwanted physical or verbal harassment they receive, for fear of retaliation or getting fired from a much-needed job.

Those fears are not unfounded. An analysis found that as many as 75 percent of women who formally reported sexual harassment in the workplace faced some type of retaliation, such as exclusion from meetings or promotions, or even termination. For that reason, many employees did not speak up, but told only a coworker or spoke informally with a manager.

When Unwelcome Touching or Grabbing Equals Harassment

The occasional pat on the back from a coworker or someone standing too close while you’re trying to work may not constitute sexual harassment, but a pattern of physical touching certainly can. While in the workplace, you do not have to tolerate any touching that you don’t want. In fact, some harassers enjoy pushing the boundaries just to see you get uncomfortable, or to see what they can get away with. Here are some examples of unwanted touch:

  • Hugging
  • Grabbing by the shoulders or waist
  • Groping
  • Giving “massages”
  • Kissing (anywhere on your body, not just the lips)
  • Standing or sitting very close
  • Brushing against you
  • Whispering or getting very close to your face to speak

You’ll note that some of these don’t even involve direct contact, but uncomfortable, unnecessary, or unwarranted proximity for the workplace. Some or all of these actions may create a hostile work environment that you don’t have to tolerate.

Why Isn’t Unwanted Touching Reported More Often?

One reason unwelcome touching doesn’t get reported is because the victims second-guess themselves. “Maybe he was just trying to be nice,” they think. Or, “Maybe he just doesn’t know that bothers me.” In other cases, recipients of unwanted touching don’t want to rock the boat, or simply don’t know the best way to report the behavior.

Many harassers have a pattern of these actions, and they’re skilled at making it seem like they are completely innocent. In reality, they want to make you uncomfortable. They may intend to progress toward worse behavior, like stalking or sexual assault.

When you consult an experienced sexual harassment attorney, you can get the support you need to stop the behavior before it moves from merely uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

Plus, when people come forward and tell their stories, often other victims feel empowered to speak out as well. That’s what makes reporting harassment important, especially when you work with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the process.

Why Is Unwanted Touching a Problem?

In addition to typically violating California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, unwanted touching or groping is a problem that we should eradicate from the workplace for other reasons. Harassment in the workplace:

  • Costs employers money. In 2015 alone, the federal government recovered $164.5 million for employees who made a case for harassment at work. That doesn’t include what state regulators and private attorneys recovered for their clients.
  • Harms employees who are the recipients of unwanted touching. Physical, mental, and emotional damage due to unwanted touching and harassment can result in more sick days and higher medical costs as victims manage the impact of these negative behaviors.
  • Results in decreased productivity. Not only do harassers waste time by their actions, and victims must spend time moving away from or avoiding the harasser, but these problems hurt the productivity and morale of other employees who witness damaging behavior.
  • Leads to increased turnover. In many cases, employees simply quit to get away from unwanted touching or groping at work. Coworkers leave because they don’t want to become the next victim, or they dislike seeing the harassing behavior. Employers lose valuable workers, and have to spend the time and money to train replacements.
  • Makes qualified employees avoid the company. If a business develops a reputation as harboring harassers or tolerating harassing behavior, owners and managers may not attract top talent who hear about the problem. This issue can persist even if a company takes steps to discipline or remove harassers and institute training.

How Should You Proceed if You’re the Victim of Unwanted Touch or Grabbing in the Workplace?

You don’t have to tolerate unwelcome touching. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can evaluate your case, and help you decide on the next steps. You can—and should—meet with a lawyer who has experience in these cases before you take any action, including internal reporting of the behavior to your human resources department. (Remember that H.R. exists to benefit the company, not individual workers like you.)

An attorney can also help you document incidents of unwanted touching with dates, times, witnesses, and details of the encounter. Proper documentation is vital to building a case that will lead to changes in the workplace, and aid recovery of damages for your emotional distress or other harms suffered due to the misconduct.

If you decide to file a claim, a knowledgeable lawyer can give you necessary support and advocacy, whether the case goes to mediation or litigation. Contact an experienced attorney today if you are experiencing unwanted touching or grabbing in your workplace.