I have worked for a doctor for 9 years. He has a small practice but a big ego and always seems to hire attractive female staff. I have had concerns about his motives for some time. Last year he sent me a joking but sexually related text that made me uncomfortable. I let it go. Then recently he sent me another than was more explicit regarding me thinking he was attractive. Now I am really uncomforable and I think I need to leave my job. The problem is I don't have the money to leave this job and be out of work for a long time. How do I handle this?
Employment / Labor Attorney
Talk to him. Explain to him how his text made you uncomfortable and ask him to please not send you any more messages of that nature. But save the text and start keeping a diary of any further events or actions you believe may be retaliatory, including the names of any witnesses to the event. Meanwhile, if you truly believe you cannot continue working there, start looking for other employment but don't quit this job until you find a better one.
Part of the definition of sexual harassment, includes a finding that the actions of the harasser must be severe or pervasive. Depending on how graphic or obscene these texts were, two texts may not be considered severe or pervasive enough to be actionable in a court of law. However, how the employer responds to your request to stop, may go a long way to determining legal liability.
If you have doubts or concerns about how to best handle the situation or to further discuss your options, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your area.
They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
If there is an office manager, report your discomfort to him or her. If no office manager, report your discomfort to the doctor. It is unlawful to retaliate against someone for reporting sexual harassment, so if that occurs, the employer will be acting unlawfully.
As to quitting, you certain can and should quit if you need to. However, I would be concerned that two texts would not be sufficiently severe or pervasive to qualify for sexual harassment that would justify a claim, and it would make your quitting something that might not allow you to claim you were constructively discharged.
Good luck to you.
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Lemon Law Attorney
Before you do anything drastic like quit your job it is important to know for sure if you have a case. We would be more than happy to review your case, at no charge. Hopefully you have kept the text messages from your employer for evidence purposes.
9 lawyers agree
Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Mr. Kirschbaum and Mr. Pedersen have both given excellent responses. I write only to add that at least one California case has held that even a single incident of sexual harassment, when it comes from a supervisor, can be sufficient to create a lawsuit.
Don't rely on that, though. Mr. Kirschbaum has given you excellent advice about talking to him, and keeping a diary of all responses.
Meanwhile, you're wise to be concerned about finding another job. Hold on to this one as long as you can (meaning as long as it isn't doing you real psychological or other harm), and look for another job in the meanwhile. It's always easier to find a job while you have a job.
Good luck, and I wish you the best.
Craig T. Byrnes
Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not offering legal advice, nor forming an attorney-client relationship with you. I am not representing you, nor doing anything to protect your legal rights. If you believe that you have suffered a legal wrong, take action before any statute or limitations expires, or your right to do so may be lost forever. Good luck in your legal matter.
10 lawyers agree
Sexual Harassment Attorney
I agree that the pervasive or severe requirement for sexual harassment could be a significant hurdle for you based on the facts that you described. It is a very good idea to make a complaint about the sexual harassment to your employer.
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