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What Is a Harassment Lawsuit?

A boss yelling at an employee.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
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  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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A harassment lawsuit is a case brought before a judge because a party feels he has been harassed in some manner. If the party who files the lawsuit, typically referred to as the plaintiff, is able to prove his case, stiff penalties may apply for the accused party. For example, a person who is convicted of harassing another may go to jail. In some cases, however, the penalty is monetary in nature, and the defendant ends up paying a fine or compensating the plaintiff in some other manner. Some harassment lawsuits are even settled out of court to save the defendant or the company involved the embarrassment that may come with public loss of the case.

There are different types of harassment, but generally a harassment lawsuit begins because a person repeatedly behaved in a manner that was perceived as intrusive or threatening. If the accused person's words or actions made another person feel less safe or secure, there may be a basis for a harassment lawsuit. In some cases, making certain gestures and intruding on another person's privacy may be considered grounds for a harassment suit as well.

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Sometimes a person will seek a restraining order to deal with harassment that has caused him to feel threatened. If a restraining order is granted, it requires the accused person to stop his actions and stay away from the petitioner. In some cases, it may also cover phone calls, restricting the accused not only from physical interaction, but also from talking to the petitioner at all. If the person accused of harassment violates the terms of the restraining order, he may be given a jail sentence.

Sometimes a party who feels he’s been harassed may file a lawsuit against the person who harassed him. Generally, a person files such a lawsuit because the accused party caused some type of harm, which can be physical or emotional. For example, threats to cause physical harm may count as harassment as can touching another person in an unwanted manner. In lawsuits involving sexual harassment, a person may be guilty of harassment for rubbing his secretary’s shoulders when she did not want him to or for repeatedly making suggestive comments.

There are different types of damages that may be awarded in a harassment lawsuit. If physical harm results from harassment, even that brought on by emotion upheaval, the plaintiff may be awarded compensatory damages. In such a case, cash is awarded as compensation for losses. Nominal damages may be awarded if there was no physical harm, but the plaintiff’s rights were violated. In some cases, punitive damages are awarded as punishment for the deliberate acts of the harasser.

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Discuss this Article

anon352595
Post 37

I am renting a room in a mobile home senior park in San Diego. I pay $450 a month for a cheap, empty room with a used fold up bed after I was told I would have nice furniture. My landlady sits outside my bedroom every night and uses the excuse she is watching television. She has not informed the park I am here. She knocks on my door all the time even though I have told her I will not be answering it. She is 82, and I am 64. I am on a meager income -- about $750 a month -- and after storage, only about $150 a month for food, etc.

I have asked her nicely and she refuses to sit anywhere else, so I want to know if this fits the description of harassment. She has a huge couch and when I moved in she had asked me to remove the chair as she hated it but now she is outside my door every night listening to me, on the phone and even using the bathroom.

I cannot afford to move and oh -- she had ten dead mice and rats in the house. One I took a photo of, and also spiders she finally sprayed for after six months. She is indeed a slumlord.

And she's dangerous. She told me she "feared" me when I got angry over her knocking at my door at 2 a.m. to see if I was home.

She has already violated the rules of the park by not telling them about me and refuses to give me a receipt for the money I've given to her, although I am now going to put all the dates on a piece of paper and make her sign it and then notarize it. I believe she is harassing me.

anon341328
Post 36

Let me say this: I very sorry for anyone that has to go through something like this. I thought in my entire life I would never experience anything like this in life. I was just wrongfully terminated from a position just yesterday because I refuse to participate in sexual activities after work hours with certain male co workers. They made my life a living hell.

I was also informed that I wouldn't have lost my job if I hadn't refused their offers. Come to find out, the main supervisor has a sexual harassment charge against him also. The boss said, "Oh, you were let go because of your job performance." Yeah, right. I never had a bad review filed against me since I've been there. And if that were the case, then why didn't management speak with me then. Management is supposed to give employees fair warning concerning job performance. So I knew this was just bogus before he even could complete the sentences.

anon340793
Post 35

I know most of these posts are about the workplace, but I am so fed up with my ex husband. He has filed a lawsuit against me for contempt on two different matters (we haven't even went to court yet) Now I find out that he is filing for custody of our children. I have took care of them for three years since he walked out.

He will not keep a steady job and hasn't even tried to pay child support in over eigh months. I am sick of his harassment! He has no grounds for either case and has continually tried to get me arrested and thrown in jail since our high profile separation. When a cop gets arrested for his bad choices, he blames everyone else for the loss of his career (especially me).

anon331388
Post 34

At the office Christmas party, my boss (who was drunk) asked me in front of all staff, "If I had told them that he had seen my nipples before I had gotten them pierced and that my first job interview was naked?"

It has been tense ever since that took place. Is that sexual harassment?

anon326172
Post 33

My son's health teacher in his middle school constantly singles him out and asks personal questions regarding trust between parent and child, even during a test. Does this qualify as harassment?

shygirl83
Post 32

My friend and ex-neighbor are living in another home now, but my landlord is telling me I'm not allowed to have my friend or her husband come to my house anymore or else he will evict us too.

I own the trailer and I'm only renting the space. I have been renting here for about 20 years now. He evicted them for calling him to fix things in the triplex where they lived.

When they moved in the house, it was horrible and the heater even caught on fire. Two years later when he evicted them, he still hadn't fixed the heater, and now my landlord is calling my friend's husband's boss and saying things and telling them to garnish his wages. What can they do? And is that legal? We live in California.

anon320716
Post 31

I work as a delivery person for a well known company and my co-worker smokes and and I don't. I had asked him many times to smoke when we are out of the truck, but he says I have to deal with it.

I told the manager and the rest of my co-workers, but they were like, "Oh well" and do nothing. He has even smoked weed in the cab of the truck with me and goes back to the office and they all think it's funny. I'm wondering what I should do and that not even the half of it.

anon318294
Post 30

My boss actually fired me because I wouldn’t have a relationship with him. I helped him set up his new business at another city, which was successful. Money was to come when things were solid. I was on speaker phone and taped the rest of his ranting. He confessed he tried everything to win me over and he couldn’t understand how I never felt anything or wanted his gifts, so he tried to do everything.

I lost my personal items because I left everything at the new job located in a new city. I lost my rent and had to prioritise for myself and for my sons. Long story short, I tried to be nice because he became suicidal and his family begged me to help with the business. Same garbage happened again but he dragged my sons into the mess and affected them. I was in survivor mode, homeless, sick and he did not pay me, returned the truck he was fixing in pieces to my home as punishment because I would not talk with him after pushing himself on me.

At the same time, my oldest son was hospitalised. I was a mess because of the chain reaction and losing everything. I was homeless, rejected from my church because another person spread lies from being rejected (confessed this as well). Despite my proof, I was alone and had no energy to fight for myself. I went to mental health, and wherever I could for support, but I did not fit the profile of an abused woman, or I got some support before holiday time.

I tried to document everything. In the end, it’s taken years to rebuild my life. There is so much to do when you lose everything and live in a tent to becoming a workaholic and gaining some security back. I recently suffered an injury and crashed. I had PTSD from him, and the trauma from the chain reaction of events afterwards. It has been over eight years, and I never realised how much time and damage was caused from so much happening at once and trying to survive on my own.

He was just one of many things that happened and not until now have I felt safe enough to spend the time to mend. I have so much pain from being emotional raped on so many levels by him and other men because I didn't want to have a relationship with them. I even sabotaged my looks just so I was not attractive. I wore no makeup and was very modest. I think I am ready now, but is it ever too late to make a case against people who killed my spirit and started a chain reaction?

I thought I was acting like a victim by complaining, or in the wrong, but this last year of being injured has allowed me time to see, grow, heal and understand. I've had time enough to be able to speak out without fear I will get hurt more. I was afraid people would not believe me, because they did not even want to listen to the tape or look at my journal. I guess what I went through was just too far-fetched, especially because it involved other people. But mostly I was silenced because those I reached out to in positions of trust and authority were part of the problem and that’s another story.

I knew it blew my mind, but my mind just wants some way to let go and feel like I did something. The boss I refer to was fined by revenue Canada because he did not pay staff. Meanwhile, the staff saved their check stubs. My boss has no records of me either. I only have so much fight and had to pick my battles then. Guess I’m upset because the business I helped start and worked at for nothing is still going strong. This injury of mine started from working for him in construction, and being injured at work. I was really used and swept away like dirt from people who had their own agendas. I want to get my health back. Is it too late to bring the past forward?

anon315468
Post 29

Can a lawyer himself be sued for harassment? Is there anything in USA law that indemnifies lawyers from being sued for harassment over the own actions against people in lawsuits they manage for their clients?

anon313421
Post 27

Can someone file harassment if you send them an email saying to leave your ex alone?

anon311810
Post 25

Can an ex who lives in another country sue you for telling their mother that they are gay?

anon311577
Post 24

@SurfNTurf: Thank you for the answer! I will check on this with my attorney. I appreciate it!

juneko
Post 23

I have been told by my manager, my hr, and the regional manager of hr that I am assuming everything that I am complaining about towards my store manager.

Everything I have gone through boils down to consistently being turned down for promotions and favoritism towards other employees to get the position.

I have tried to reach out to the chain of command only to experience intimidation the further I go up the chain, and sabotage. Now I fear since I have made these complaints, they are going to watch my every move, and terminate me for anything they can to fire me for.

All I have are the experiences I have gone through personally with my manager, and now they are telling me that I have no concrete proof of my complaints, and only assumptions. I am very frustrated and discouraged.

anon308813
Post 22

My boss called me in to his office and said he has noticed that I am stressed. I told him that I am struggling with the extra tasks and deadlines that have been given to me. He said that I am not fulfilling my role and that he can remove me from the company. I have had no support from him at all. I feel he has threatened me.

amypollick
Post 21

@ladybug40: Tell your relative who sold the printer to contact this guy and tell him that he needs to deal with your relative, not you.

I'd also ask an attorney's advice. An attorney could tell you whether you have any liability here, and can also tell you the best way to proceed from there.

Honestly? If I were your relative, I'd give the guy the $50 back and hope that made him go away. But on your end, I'd really want to talk to an attorney. Good luck.

ladybug40
Post 20

I need some advice. I posted an ad on craigslist, something for sale for a family member with my phone number. A guy called about it and wanted it. My family member wasn’t able to come at the time the guy came, since he was on his way already. The item was at my mom’s house, which is empty, because it was currently up for sale and I’m the one who been showing it. Anyway, I met the guy at my mom’s house. He looked at the item and said he wanted it. He gave me the $50 then left. Well, for the last two days he been calling saying the item is broken and he wants his money back. He looked it over and it worked when he looked at it and everything, and my family member even said it fully worked.

This guy only knew my first name and that’s it, but the other day he was pounding on my door and standing outside my door for three hours, sitting in his car. Now this guy has never been at my personal home residence because he met me at another house. It creeped me out because no one who lives next to my mom’s house knows the address where I live.

I was getting mad and went outside and he said it was broke and said he didn’t want it wanted his money back and he said since I was the one who met him, I’m the responsible party. This was an as-is sale and he looked at this before he bought it. Well, he said he cleaned it and pushed it toward me. He had it wrapped in plastic. I told him I don’t have the money and besides I was just there for him to pick it up. He said he wanted his money and after Christmas he will be back.

The next day, I got a box in the mail. It was the power cord for the printer, but what really bothers me is that he has my full name and address and number to my residence. I never told him that and he never has been here before. When my family member came and unwrapped the item, it had been taken apart, plus the ink that was in it was gone and the extra boxes of ink weren’t even returned. He brought it back in pieces with stuff missing from it, and it did work before he left too.

What can I do? What boggles me is I told him I never told you my residence, that I met you at my mom’s house. He said I can’t tell you that. I told him you know standing outside someone’s door for three hours is uncalled for, and he said it’s the principle. I told him he looked at the item and it was sold as is, that I was just there to see if he wanted it, and that it wasn’t mine, so for him to come at my personal residence, looking up my full name and showing up and sitting and waiting for two hours was creepy.

He then left, but said he will be back after Christmas. What can I do? I’m somewhat concerned for safety reasons. Should I wait or do I need to get a restraining order?

anon307630
Post 19

I was just recently let go from a company and every day I was continuously picked on by the boss and he would always say hurtful things and I honestly have no idea what to do. Can anyone help with my situation?

I was already scared as it was, knowing he carried a loaded firearm in his vehicle with him. So I could never defend myself without thinking that he would do something to me.

buster101
Post 18

When does it become harassment? I owe a truck payment of 193.00 and I just got a job Monday. I get paid every two weeks and they are threatening to send it to collections. They have called me 14 times within two hours. I'm not wanting to sue them. I would just like to know.

amypollick
Post 17

@anon300095: Call the store and ask to speak with the store manager. Tell him or her that you need to make an appointment for a meeting.

At the meeting, describe the manager's behavior, and tell the store manager to check the security tapes for the time you were there.

I don't know that a lawsuit would work right now, but you could certainly indicate to the store manager that you will get a no-contact order on that twit, and that Wal-Mart probably doesn't want to deal with any legal action, either.

Take your husband with you to the meeting.

anon300095
Post 16

I was shopping in Walmart yesterday and a manager commented on my appearance. He then asked if he could cook for me. I said "no, I'm married". He then asked other customers their opinion of my appearance. He followed me up an aisle and asked for my phone number. I said "No!"

A customer asked if I knew him. I said "no". They couldn't believe his persistence. He asked me to meet him outside. I walked off. He approached me at checkout telling me, "if you change your mind, you know where I am". As I was putting groceries in my car, he was outside watching me. Do I have a harassment case? What should I do?

anon299198
Post 15

I'm to the point of madness. After letting the landlord know I'm moving in writing, he's threatening to start eviction procedures against me, simply because I am trying to pay past rent due and now he's verbally assaulted me and threatening start eviction proceedings (after I've let them know I'm moving). Is this something I should hire a lawyer for?

I;m trying to be nice about this and understanding, because yes, I do owe some rent. Due to the economy, I can no longer afford to live here, but at the same time, I don't feel as if the landlord should've torn me a new backside either since I've always paid my rent when it's due. He also made threats against me to garnish my husband's wages, sue us for damages to the property, and cleanup. (place is neither damaged or filthy) The guy went from being OK to completely out of control in 2.5 seconds.

I took him some money for the rent (not all of it), and was verbally assaulted (called a multitude of things and belittled). In short, I want to know if I should hire a lawyer to just deal with this guy?

anon298450
Post 14

I care for my neighbor; she is 84. When she moved into the trailer, she had no idea the pipes in the wall for the washer were broken, so when she used her washing machine it flooded the trailer and the floor had to be replaced. Also, the trailer is infested with roaches that were there prior to her moving in! She has to live on oxygen and I don't think that is sanitary.

But back to the floor: the landlord fixed the floor but now he is wanting the elderly lady to pay for the repairs. She lives on $500 a month and housing pays her rent; she barely gets by. Now he is telling her if she doesn't pay he is going to evict her. He also told her daughter that he wants her to move out because of her age.

Now I am no lawyer, but I do know what he is doing is wrong. The landlord is saying she brought the roaches in, but the maintenance man told me and my fiance that the trailer was roach infested before she ever moved in. The landlord is always going to the elderly woman's door and demanding money and telling her if she doesn't pay him he will evict her. She has health issues and he is making them worse.

Can something be done to make him leave her alone and stop harassing her?

anon287205
Post 12

I have a question on whether these may be grounds for a lawsuit.

I have been living in this rental for about a year now, along with my other half and my other half's mother. I have been quiet and trying to ignore it, but now it's getting worse.

About three months ago, my mother-in-law witnessed the unfortunate murder of the next door neighbor's husband. Everything in the street went quiet for about half a month, then the neighbor who was still living there has started having men over whom we have not seen before. These men started calling my mother-in-law a bludger (she was there helping the neighbor and her children for months before this happened), abused her and is now harassing my other half and her mother daily. They are now all sitting outside the house, and every time we leave the house we hear abuse and they threaten to beat us and slash the tires on our car.

We are going to try to get a misconduct restraining order, but we don't know any of the other strangers' names. We tried the police, but they don't seem to be able to do anything at all. My mother-in-law and my other half both have recurring depression and it is looking to me like my mother-in-law's depression is back in full force.

Is there anything we can do apart from the restraining order, or is this a possible lawsuit?

anon284106
Post 11

I have only been in my new home for seven weeks, and within the first week it started. The people next door were having wild and loud parties until past two in the morning and I have a 2 year old and 4 year old who need to sleep.

There is constant shouting and screaming and loud talking laughing at all hours of the night. Sometimes even the son and his girlfriend and mates used to shout and scream at top of their lungs outside my front door and even suggested to each other, "I dare you to bang on the door" and so on. This was intimidating, so I put up with this for four weeks then thought enough was enough. They were having parties at least once every two days in the week, with loads of drunken yobs shouting and so forth.

I put in a complaint to the housing manager and also contacted the police and also the environmental health department. After this, things seemed to calm down, but then starting from yesterday, this neighbour decided she would call the police on me because my kids 2 and 4 had, been screaming and shouting as kids do. On top of this the neighbour also lied to the police that there was a party here last night. I do not know enough people to have a party. I would mention to them if i was intending to have a party. The police apparently knocked last night but everything was quiet because me and my kids were asleep. This morning, however, the police knocked on my door at 9 o clock, explaining what had been said from her next door. They even said well, when we knocked, it was quiet and couldn't hear anything. I said yes, because we were asleep.

They then said, "Do you think they could have got the wrong house or could it have been people walking past?" I said yes possibly, because the children and I were asleep. So what I think is happening is that she is doing this as a tit for tat problem.

The thing I would like to know is has this started to become a form of harassment and if so, what can I do about it? Considering that kids will scream and shout, no matter whether you like it or not. I did ask the neighbour politely the first time around if she could turn down her music, but it carried on so I felt I had no choice but to contact my landlord and such.

anon284014
Post 10

I have been receiving calls from a law firm that represents Dell about a delinquent account from a previous employer. I have explained in detail my role with the previous employer to them and I still am receiving calls.

I was the IT manager with the company over three years ago, and the delinquent portion happened well after I had left the company. This last time they called, I told them that I explained this more than once and if they continue to call, I will file a harassment suit. Would I have a case against them?

amypollick
Post 9

@anon273650: Sure, you can always file a lawsuit. Will you win? No way. Why? Because you didn't suffer any material harm. The fact it happened in front of your child is regrettable, but mostly, it means he's a jerk. But, since he finally left you alone and didn't threaten to harm you (I assume, since you didn't mention it), it's not harassment. It's a one-time incident of someone being a complete jackass, and not actionable in court.

Why on earth didn't you go to customer service and report this guy? I wouldn't have showed him my license, either. Since your child was with you, really, you should have gone immediately to the customer service desk and reported him. They would have probably asked him to leave the store right then. You certainly weren't under any obligation to prove anything to him.

I am sorry this happened to you, but it sounds like this guy is either just a jerk, or off his meds, in which case, he's probably seeing CIA operatives everywhere, too.

anon273650
Post 8

I went to walmart the other day and a man came up to me and he asked if I was so and so and I told him no. He just kept on until I got my license out and showed him. He made me feel so low, and he did this in front of my little girl.

Come to find out, the girl he was asking about had shoplifted.

I have a friend who works at walmart so I called and told her about it. She told her boss and they pulled the picture up of this girl and she said she doesn't even look like you. Can I file a suit?

anon245688
Post 7

I have someone who texted inappropriate things that personally put me down. I asked for it to stop and let the police know and she was stupid enough to keep going so she now has legal issues over it. I also may file a civil suit just because it was so bad.

anon232841
Post 6

I have one set of neighbors who calls the cops on me and my roommates from doing everything from talking on our porch to smoking a cigarette outside. We don't have crazy parties and we both get off work at 10 and when we see each other we normally share a cigarette on our front porch. Our other neighbors are friends of ours and will come over too. They have never had a problem with us.

Since this year that one set of neighbors has called the police to our house over 40 times. Can this be construed as harassment?

anon205966
Post 5

It is very difficult to be a Supervisor in today's climate. An employee walked off the job twice over not being approved for vacation when he did not have the vacation time accrued, then when he was terminated for cause, he stated he was forced to walk off due to a hostile environment. I sided with the superintedent and took heat for it. Where is the personal responsibility?

anon183821
Post 4

I have an ex landlord who let us rent from him for a year with our mixed breed puppy, then he realized how large he was and said we had to get rig of it. We told him no and moved. He then sent an anonymous newspaper clipping to our new landlady where someone is questioning if the landlord could be held liable if the dog attacked someone. The clipping said "sometimes" if the dog has a history of aggression (mine doesn't he is neutered house broken has his shots).

The wife of the man who does carpentry work for our landlady sent me an email telling me yes, he did send the letter to my landlady and that since we were moving he was going to try to follow us to the new landlady's home and harass us again. Would we have a case?

cupcake15
Post 3

@SauteePan - I know what you mean, but I guess it depends on the situation. My friend’s former boss was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit from multiple employees within the organization.

The company fired my friend’s boss and settled with the victims. In this case the lawsuit helped get this person out of the organization which was a positive thing because so many of the employees at the company were so miserable with him.

The employees became instantly more productive the minute he was gone so sometimes a lawsuit helps a company make better decisions.

SauteePan
Post 2

@SurfNTurf - I agree with you and have to say that harassment at work is really stressful for the employee because the employee is dependent on the job in order to pay his bills but the harassment makes him or her not want to go to work.

I think that the employer has a lot of power in these situations and some managers or supervisors might take advantage of it because they know that the employee needs the job.

It is also hard for the employee to prove something like sexual harassment unless they had a conversation taped or an email that they kept. This is the other problem with these harassment cases because the person accused of the harassment will deny everything.

The only other thing that you can do is keep a written journal for evidence so that you can eventually go to your human resources manager about the incidents and if the company does not help you then you can go to an attorney with your notes and file a lawsuit.

I would give the company a chance first to resolve the problem because suing the company is a big step and many people find that after they do this they may have difficulty working in the same industry again because the lawsuit tends to scare other employers.

surfNturf
Post 1

I think that there is a rise in workplace harassment lawsuits because I think people are becoming less tolerant of it. I also think that most responsible companies have a workplace harassment policy and conduct yearly orientations for all employees to ensure that the policy is enforced.

Workplace harassment lawsuits are really embarrassing for a company and it really puts the company in a vulnerable position which is why a lot of these cases are settled out of court. A company knows that if the employee harassment lawsuit went to a jury trial, the jury would probably side with the employee making the company look even worse.

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