Sexual harassment: a heavy burden to prove

Throughout the course of one's life, an individual is likely to encounter a variety of unfair actions and injustices. In cases where these types of actions, comments or behaviors occur in a work environment, an employee may consider filing a formal complaint and even taking legal action. This is particularly true when discussing alleged acts of workplace sexual harassment. However, barring hard evidence, the feat of proving a sexual harassment case puts a heavy burden on the victim.

Recently a sexual harassment lawsuit involving claims that a Yahoo executive coerced a subordinate employee into a sexual relationship, gained national media attention. According to the lawsuit, the female executive is accused of abusing her position of power when she allegedly threatened to fire a female subordinate if she refused the executive sex.

The above-referenced case deals with serious accusations that definitely meet the legal standards of a sexual harassment case. However, both Yahoo and the executive defendant refute the claims and assert the employee fabricated the entire story. In response, the female executive has even filed a counter lawsuit against the former employee. Unless evidence like a text message, email or photograph surfaces and helps confirm the employee's claims, this case will be very difficult to prove.

In many other cases, employees who may believe they have been the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination are faced with a hostile workplace situation. While an employee may report co-workers who use inappropriate language or make sexually-suggestive comments, these actions alone may not be enough to constitute a lawsuit.

In cases where an employee believes they have been the target of sexual harassment in the workplace, it's wise to consult with an attorney who handles employment law cases. An attorney can answer questions, provide advice and, when appropriate, assist in pursuing legal action.

Source:, "What makes sex harassment cases tough to win," Danny Cevallos, July 19, 2014

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