With the recent firing of high profile NBC Today Show Anchor Matt Lauer, will we see more people feeling confident enough to file claims of sexual harassment?
The answer is not as cut and dry as the actual law is. Toledo Attorney Thomas Sobecki specializes in sexual harassement litigation and has for years dealt with these cases.
"They do not have to tolerate it, it's illegal sexual harassement and hostile work environment is illegal," says Sobecki, "But I do understand why victims are afraid to come forward."
Sobecki says the law is clear. Sexual harassement can start with sexual language. "Either direct or indirect sexual language, people will know when it's happening," says Sobecki. "It can go beyond words, to inappropriate touching to actual assault to rape." The statute of limitations in cases of sexual harassement or hostile work environment lawsuits is six years.
However UT law Professor Nicole Porter says that is still an area of illusive enforcement. "I'll bring a harassment claim and I'll also bring a retaliation claim..along with it both under Title 7. It's going to take at least a couple years to litigate that even if I have a really strong claim," says Porter. Porter says the reality is that if you've lost your job as a result of filing the claim, the financial burden falls to you. "Even if the employer doesn't do the right thing I'll still be ok because I'm independently wealthy let's say, most of us are not independently wealthy, and if we're worried about losing our job because we've angered somebody, that's what keeps most people from reporting." says Porter.
Darlene Sweeney-Newbern is the Head of the Ohio Civil Rights Toledo Office. Her office is a law enforcement agency. "We're not an advocacy group. We have access to all documents, files, email, anything we need in order to bring forth an investigation."
If you file a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, it will not be anonymous. Victims should be aware of that. Also, if the commission finds probable cause and finds a violation occurred, but the company refuses to do anything to rectify the situation, the case is then turned over to the Ohio Attorney General's office which will then handle the litigation.