Sexual assault problem here "like a silent assassin," Austin lawyer says

A civil rights attorney here in Austin says that over the past few weeks, there's been a big increase in people calling ready to take action after getting harassed.

AUSTIN - It’s not just Hollywood, Washington and on TV: sexual harassment happens here in Austin, Texas, and it happens more than you may think.

"Here in the Austin community, sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace is like a silent assassin,” said Austin Kaplan, a civil rights attorney. 

Over the past few weeks, Kaplan has received more phone calls than usual from people ready to take action after they claim they were harassed or assaulted in the workplace. 

"I get those calls every day," Kaplan said.

Victims are no longer staying silent, and here’s what Kaplan advises if it happens to you.

First, he said you should speak with your human resources department and file a complaint so it’s on the record. 

"If the employer turns around and fires you for making that complaint, you may have an additional cause of action for retaliation under those statutes,” explained Kaplan.

Then, he advises, you should file with the EEOC, that's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Texas Workforce Commission.

"It's free to make a complaint and, at that point, they'll open an investigation of your employer," Kaplan said.

Make sure to file within 180 days of the incident because there is a statute of limitations in Texas. 

You can also get legal help with a lawyer.

"My best advice is, do not go it alone. It doesn't have to be an attorney, but find a trusted partner that you can work with and bounce ideas off of and help you solve this problem,” Kaplan said.

"If everyone spoke up like we did on social media but did it in their workplaces today, we would be facing a very, very different tomorrow," said Kaplan.

Kaplan said the majority of employment cases are settled or resolved confidentially without going to litigation. Texas generally caps the monetary settlement at $300,000.

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