Once you file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer, things can get very heated in the workplace. In some instances, an employer may retaliate by making your daily work life miserable. Things may get so bad that you're tempted to just walk out the door and draw unemployment. It's important to understand that filing a sexual harassment lawsuit does not automatically qualify you to collect unemployment benefits. Whether you qualify for unemployment depends on what happens after you file the lawsuit.
Not While Employed
As long as you're still employed with the company, it's usually impossible to collect unemployment benefits. There are only two exceptions to this rule. The first exception applies when your hours are significantly cut by your employer due to no fault of your own. The second exception is when you're completely laid off from your job. It's possible that your employer may reduce your hours or lay you off as a retaliation response to your lawsuit.
Try Not to Quit
Try not to quit your job. If you do quit, the unemployment agency may determine that you're unemployed due to your own fault. To collect benefits you must be unemployed through no fault of your own. There's a clause in the unemployment compensation law that allows you to receive benefits if your reason for quitting is a “good cause.” A good cause is defined as any situation that would cause the average person to quit. For instance, your employer's post-lawsuit behavior may be causing you severe mental stress. If you decide to quit, it's important to take proactive measures before quitting.
Keep a Paper Trail
To increase your chances of collecting unemployment, keep a paper trail of everything. If the harassment is continuing, keep a journal of the dates, times and guilty parties. Document who you spoke with and what action, if any, was taken to address the situation. If you feel you're being retaliated against, document the details of the perceived retaliation, who you told and what was done about it. If you have copies of incriminating email or paper correspondence between yourself and your employer, print a copy of this correspondence for your own records.
File For Benefits
If you get fired, have your hours reduced or if you quit, immediately file for unemployment benefits through your local unemployment agency. As part of the application process, you and your employer are required to participate in a fact-finding interview to determine who's responsible for your job loss. Usually, the employer is not present during your interview. It's important to make a case against your employer in the interview. Present your documentation of the sexual harassment charges. Include documentation of any retaliatory actions your employer took against you. The employment agency will send a notification letter indicating if you're approved for benefits. If benefits are denied, you have a right to file an appeal and it may be necessary to get your lawyer involved during the appeals process.
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