Federal Laws on Sexual Harassment

<< Page 1: Sexual Harassment at Work

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 officially made sexual harassment illegal in the workplace, and over the years, the EEOC has built up a large body of regulations and guidelines to preventing sexual harassment at work. Under federal laws against sexual harassment, victims of sexual harassment can sue for damages, per a 1991 amendment to Title VII of the Act.

Essentially, the federal laws regarding sexual harassment protect virtually all private and public employees in the United States and those U.S. based companies functioning internationally. The only groups of individuals exempt from sexual harassment protection per Title VII are those individuals working in companies with fewer than fifteen employees. Several state laws, known as Fair Employment Practices, also address sexual harassment and the law in their own state as well.

The Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment

The most comprehensive legal sex discrimination definition entails the occurrence of any undesired sexual conduct at work, which engenders a hostile, intimidating, or uncomfortable workplace for workers.

Stopping Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Victims of sexual harassment have a number of options if resolving EEOC sexual harassment cases is not possible through internal channels. Some of the probable methods of resolving any sexual harassment case will include:

  • Filing a complaint with the EEOC or the FEP agency in your state
  • File a private lawsuit against harassers
  • File a tort suit for personal injury damages perpetrated by harassers

What to Do if You Are Being Sexually Harassed

If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, there are a number of channels to end the harassment and possibly ensure your harasser is punished. First and foremost, speaking up about the harassment you are being subjected to is essential to stop sex harassment cases at work. Directly tell your harasser that you want the sexual harassment to end. Companies often have internal methods of dealing with reporting sexual harassment, which often includes speaking with a company human resources official. If no human resources person exists, speaking with one or more of your supervisors is another means of how to handle sexual harassment.

It is important to document all sexual harassment claims with ample amount of evidence. Evidence regarding the harassment itself, such as emails, notes, recorded messages, or witnessed incidents are essential. Additionally, documenting the times and means of reporting the sexual harassment, as well incidents where you directly requested your harasser to stop, is essential.

In the event that internal channels are not sufficient in ending sexual harassment, your next base of support will be through your local fair employment office or branch of the EEOC. Filing EEOC sexual harassment cases will begin an active investigation into your claims. If the investigation by the EEOC does not produce favorable results for you, you are entitled to file suit against your employer and harasser under the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In order to file suit, however, victims are required by law to first consult with a federal agency, typically the EEOC, and file a claim there. Additionally, there are certain statutes of limitations for filing sexual harassment complaints, which if not met, will inhibit your ability to sue in the future.

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