In 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 7,500 charges alleging sexual harassment in the workplace. And that number doesn’t include complaints that were filed with similar state or local agencies. Sexual harassment isn’t limited to a certain gender; 16.8% of the sexual harassment charges EEOC received in 2019 were filed by men. And the harasser and the victim can be the same gender.
What does the law say about sexual harassment in the workplace?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a type of sex discrimination. Federal and state laws generally have the same definition for sexual harassment – unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that either involves an adverse employment action (quid pro quo) or creates a hostile work environment. However, other aspects of these laws may vary:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII applies to the federal government and to other employers with 15 or more employees. Title VII limits the amount of compensatory and punitive damages you can recover. The limit is $50,000 for employers with 15–100 employees; $100,000 for employers with 101–200 employees; $200,000 for employers with 201–500 employees; and $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees.
- DC Human Rights Act: The DCHRA applies to all employers in DC, regardless of size. There is no limit on compensatory or punitive damages.
- Maryland Civil Rights Act: The MCRA applies to Maryland state and local government employers and private-sector employers with 15 or more employees. There is no limit on compensatory or punitive damages.
It’s important to note that under all three laws, employees cannot recover punitive damages from a government employers, for example, federal government agencies like the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Defense, or state or local government agencies like the District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health.
What are common examples of sexual harassment?
Sometimes, sexual harassment is obvious – sexual touching, flashing a coworker, or asking for sexual favors. However, other times it isn’t so obvious. Here are some examples of quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment:
Examples of quid pro quo
- Your supervisor mentions your upcoming performance review and that it looks like you’ll be getting a raise. Then she tells you she has tickets to a concert and asks if you’d like to go. You decline the invitation. Two weeks later, you get a negative rating on your review, and your supervisor denies the raise.
- A few weeks into your job, you start dating your supervisor. The relationship is consensual. Your supervisor fires you after you end the relationship.
Examples of hostile work environment
- Making sex-based comments about someone’s physical appearance or attributes, even if the comments are intended to be flattering
- Discussing your sex life or asking about someone else’s sex life
- Offering sexual favors
- Discussing or describing sex acts
- Sexual innuendo
- Displaying or distributing sexually suggestive images, objects, or other materials
- Making sexually suggestive gestures or sounds
Take action against sexual harassment.
Do the examples listed above sound familiar? Have you been subjected to similar treatment in your workplace? If so, you may have a claim for sexual harassment. Take action now. Tell your harasser to stop, report the harassment, and file a complaint. Alan Lescht and Associates can help you through this process. Our attorneys will evaluate your case, determine if you have a claim, and advise you about how to exercise your legal rights. We represent federal government employees around the world, and state and local government and private sector employees in DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia. Our attorneys handle administrative complaints filed with the EEOC, DCOHR, MCCR, and similar agencies, and we litigate sexual harassment cases in federal and state courts.