Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Legal Rights of Employees
1. What is the law on sexual harassment in the workplace?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and it includes offensive remarks about a person’s sex. According to state regulations the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sexual harassment is considered to be unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
2. What are the two main types of sexual harassment?
Hostile work environment sexual harassment (HWE), consists of conduct that is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment that interferes with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. For HWE a single instance of harassment can be considered severe enough, and in the alternative, multiple acts of subtle harassment may be sufficient.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a form of sexual harassment that involves a supervisor using his/her position to condition an employee’s benefits on the employee’s acceptance of the supervisor’s harassing conduct. One instance may be enough grounds for legal action under quid pro quo sexual harassment.
3. What is the statute of limitations?
Under the EEOC you must file your complaint within 300 days of the last act of discrimination or harassment. According to the DFEH you must file your complaint within one year of the last act of discrimination.
4. Who is liable and what are the legal remedies?
In California, an employer may be strictly liable if the harassment was committed by a superior and even a coworker. A successful employee can recover lost wages and compensation of other economic losses, emotional distress damages, interest and attorneys’ fees. Punitive damages can be recovered in cases where employer’s officers, directors or managing agents had knowledge of the harassment to punish and deter the employer.
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