The recent high-profile sexual harassment claims involving Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes at Fox News, Uber, and elsewhere are timely reminders about the persistent problem of sexual harassment in workplaces around the country. And this harassment infects all industries, from technology and science to Hollywood and the media to farm workers and retail jobs.
To assist employees who have suffered sexual harassment, a variety of information and resources is presented below to give these employees a better understanding of their rights and some of the requirements that may apply if they want to file a legal claim.
Sexual harassment can, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s employment.
Why it’s essential to know your legal options
Sexual harassment at work is, unfortunately, an all too common experience for female employees. It is thus vital for you to know your legal options and protections if you’ve endured sexual harassment.
For example, deadlines for filing a complaint with the EEOC about the sexual harassment apply, which might prevent you from filing a claim if missed. And your company may have policies about how to internally report harassment and discrimination.
Likewise, your employer has varying defenses to liability depending on whether the harassment is at the hands of a supervisor or a co-worker/subordinate employee.
Finally, there are different federal, state, and local laws that may apply to your particular harassment claim.
“Plain English” answers about sex harassment available
The employment discrimination attorneys at Zuckerman Law recently published a guide that lays out answers to common questions asked by employees who are faced with sexual harassment or retaliation at work.
The guide provides “plain English” answers to common questions about sexual harassment, including:
- Must the harassment come from my supervisor?
- What defenses may my employer use against my sexual harassment claim?
- What is the deadline for filing a sexual harassment complaint?
- How do I prove my workplace is a “hostile work environment”?
- What damages and remedies are available to victims of sexual harassment?
Information about the EEOC
Information from the EEOC about sexual harassment claims
The EEOC provides helpful information about sexual harassment claims as well. Including that “sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.”
What is an EEOC discrimination charge and why is it important for me to file one?
If you are considering filing a sexual harassment or glass ceiling/promotion discrimination case, or other employment discrimination claim, you need to know more about the EEOC’s discrimination charge filing process. Generally, someone who believes they have been discriminated against at work must first file an EEOC discrimination charge before they can file an employment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in federal court (different procedures may apply for a state law claim or claims under different federal laws).
Before you file a charge with the EEOC, it is often worthwhile to try and address your dispute with the company short of formal litigation. You may also want to speak with a lawyer before filing an EEOC charge because many procedural hurdles exist, which may limit the type of claims you can file in court as well as the damages you can receive.
What deadlines apply in filing an EEOC discrimination charge?
If you decide to file an EEOC discrimination charge, the EEOC’s website contains valuable information on how to do so. Depending on what state you live in, your charge of discrimination must be filed within 180 or 300 days of the discriminatory act.
Note: different requirements and deadlines apply depending on whether your employer is a private company, state or local government, union, or the federal government, and it is important to follow those specific requirements.
Also, the EEOC’s online assessment center will help you decide if you should file with the EEOC or a different agency.
Although you cannot file a discrimination charge online, the EEOC recently announced its new online inquiry and intake interview appointment system. It does not take the place of filing a charge of discrimination, but the online inquiry and appointment system does provide helpful suggestions. Also, it allows you to enter your zip code to determine which process is available to you.
Finally, you will likely be asked to fill out an intake questionnaire. According to the EEOC, this does not take the place of filing a discrimination charge, but it does give the EEOC important information about your claim.
Hiring a proven and effective advocate is critical to obtaining the maximum recovery in an employment discrimination case. Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
Bachman writes frequently on topics related to promotion discrimination, harassment, and other employment discrimination issues at the Glass Ceiling Discrimination Blog.
U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Contact us today to find out how we can help you. To schedule a preliminary consultation, click here or call us at (202) 769-1681 or (202)262-8959.