Personal injury is a legal term for claims arising out of injury to the body rather than harm to property or reputation. When we think of personal injuries, we tend to think of them as broken bones or even an illness caused by an auto accident or exposure to toxic chemicals. We often do not think of sexual harassment in Texas as a personal injury, but it is. Sexual harassment can lead to emotional distress and mental suffering, like depression and anxiety.
Understanding Texas Sexual Harassment as a Personal Injury
Most people understand that sexual harassment is a criminal offense; however, they are not aware of the civil tort claim that an injured party could pursue for injuries suffered from sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment often involves an uninvited or suggestive sexual advance or sexual comment made in the presence of or directed at another person. Characteristics of a personal injury claim for sexual harassment can include the following:
- The victim is part of a protected class of persons
- The victim was sexually harassed by another person
- The sexual harassment was caused by an intentional or negligent act
- The injured party suffered damage or harm due to the sexual harassment
Although sexual harassment is classified as a personal injury claim, it differs from other common personal injury claims for several reasons, including the type or extent of damages typically suffered from sexual harassment.
Liability in Texas for Sexual Harassment
The individual harasser and any company responsible for the harasser are the most common parties that can be held liable for sexual harassment. Most people understand that the individual engaging in the sexual harassment behavior can be liable; however, a company could also be liable for harassment from co-workers, supervisors, agents of an employer, or a customer.
There is no shortage of companies and employers that could be held liable for the sexual harassment of individuals at the workplace. For instance, nursing homes could be liable for sexual harassment by their employees, healthcare providers, other residents, and visitors.
Property owners could be liable to or for the actions of a property management company, renters, and visitors.
Damages in Sexual Harassment Claims in Texas
Like any personal injury claim, victims of sexual harassment can sue for economic and non-economic damages. Sometimes, if the state allows it and the circumstances call for it, a victim can demand punitive damages, too, for particularly malicious or outrageous acts of sexual harassment.
The hard part about sexual harassment is finding a way to quantify the non-economic damages. This type of harm is unique and incredibly harmful emotionally and mentally. Non-economic damages can include:
- Severe emotional trauma
- Anxiety disorders
The above emotional and mental harm are often accompanied by physical manifestations, like:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Muscle aches
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of desire
Quantifying these damages will be critical to ensure the victim of sexual harassment receives just and fair compensation.
Proving Sexual Harassment in Texas
Evidence is essential in proving a sexual harassment case. It is very hard for an injured person to prove a successful sexual harassment claim without supporting evidence.
There are several types of evidence that can be used to support a sexual harassment case including:
- Eyewitness testimony or testimony from other victims
- Copies of communications from the party accused of harassment
- Copies of complaints, personnel files, or other documentation of incidents from a company
- Company policies relating to sexual harassment
- Proof of benefits or proposed benefits for sexual advances
- Personal accounts of the sexual harassment recorded by the victim
Often, it can be hard to obtain the necessary evidence from a company without the assistance of legal counsel because a company wants to avoid liability.
How a Sexual Harassment Attorney in Texas Can Help You
Sexual harassment claims are generally more complex than other personal injury claims because they require different elements often involve incidents that occur in the workplace. Additionally, sexual harassment claims commonly must first be filed with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or applicable state agency.
With the increased requirements and rules in a sexual harassment lawsuit, an experienced sexual harassment attorney could help simplify the process and seek the necessary evidence soon after an incident. Additionally, an attorney could help build a strong case against the harasser and any company involved in the harassment based on the EEOC and state burdens.