Personal injury is a branch of law devoted to those who suffered pain or loss — physical or financial — due to the negligence or voluntary actions of another. Sometimes, personal injury is caused by a larger organization such as a business or government. The type of “injury” is irrelevant when determining what constitutes a claim under this branch of law. Therefore, sexual harassment is considered personal injury. But sexual harassment cases can be different from most others.
First, sexual harassment can be part of a bigger picture that includes unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, i.e. sexual assault. Physical attacks leave a victim damaged both in body and mind, which can result in both criminal and civil action taken against a perpetrator of sexual assault.
In fact, most damages resulting from sexual harassment are of the mind. This type of abuse is often constant. Victims don’t always know how to react or where to go for help. It can lead to depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, PTSD, and emotional trauma. These symptoms can last a lifetime. That’s why personal injury cases resulting from sexual harassment or assault can be worth millions — especially when the guilty party heads a big company.
Were you subject to inappropriate touching in the workplace? Ultimately, it will be up to you and your personal injury attorney to decide how to build a case, and who is actually liable for the perpetrator’s actions. Is the perpetrator of the harassment alone in his accountability? Or did the company fail to provide necessary training or a safe work environment? These are questions that will need to be answered.
An employment attorney for Castronovo & Mckinney, LLC said, “These are my least favorite cases. Every client was taken advantage of by a coworker or employer, but victims of sexual assault are unique. They don’t feel empowered by their lawsuits, even though they should be. They usually sue for justice, which isn’t always something they win in criminal court. It’s a shame.”
Sexual harassment cases are also different because revealing publicly such unbecoming conduct at work can sometimes be restricted by nondisclosure agreements, which are signed when taking a new job. They might require a victim to remain silent or seek arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit. New laws are taking aim at these types of agreements, and the writing is on the wall: they are not always binding. Ask your lawyer for additional advice regarding these types of agreements if you were forced to sign one.
Sometimes, settlements between the victim and company where the conduct occurred will result in one of the aforementioned NDAs or a gag order, depending on what each party can agree on. It’s important to keep in mind that these constraints are far more binding than those that occur to keep a case like this from happening in the first place. Thankfully, public interest in the #MeToo movement is resulting in a sea of change.