Federal and state laws protect against sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII, a federal employment anti-discrimination statute, as well as by state and local laws such as Human Rights Acts in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and certain area counties. Sexual harassment ranges from derogatory comments based on sex, to sexually charged behavior, threats of sexual assault, and sexual contact. The law protects women and men alike, and covers both opposite-sex and same-sex harassment. Sexual harassment rises to the level of illegal behavior when it interferes with employment or when the harassment creates a hostile or abusive working environment. The law encourages employers to maintain policies prohibiting sexual harassment, and to have procedures for reporting and responding to sexual harassment complaints.
The lawyers at Correia & Puth, PLLC have extensive experience confronting employers that tolerate a sexually hostile work environment, and bringing justice for targets of workplace sex harassment. We have sued employers for sex harassment and resolved informally employees’ claims of sex harassment. We help employees enforce their rights and litigate violations of laws prohibiting sexual harassment. If you are confronting workplace sex harassment we will work with you to identify your rights, and craft a strategy to remedy illegal conduct to the greatest extent possible. We can assist you in lodging effective complains against your employer, and with filing complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and state or local anti-discrimination agencies. We zealously represent our clients in negotiating a resolution with employers, and we file lawsuits to achieve our clients’ goals at trial where appropriate.
“The lawyers of Correia & Puth are dedicated advocates for the right to a workplace free from sexual harassment.”
A variety of workplace conduct, when sufficiently pervasive or severe, can rise to the level of a sexually hostile workplace. While sexually vulgar behavior and comments may qualify, a sexually hostile environment may also be found when employees are confronted by demeaning and offensive comments and conduct. Sexual harassment may be actionable and illegal where the harasser is a co-worker, a supervisor, and in some cases a non-employee, such as a client or customer.
Employees have a right to be free from sexual harassment, which may include unwanted sexual advances, offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors, threats of reprisal after a negative response to sexual advances, and physical conduct, such as touching or assault. Harassment also includes verbal conduct, for example, the use of derogatory comments, epithets, slurs, or jokes, or verbal sexual advances and propositions.
In some cases, a single sexual advance may constitute harassment if it is linked to the grant or denial of employment or employment benefits. While isolated incidents of offensive sexual conduct or remarks may not be found sufficient, even just a single incident may qualify is sufficiently severe. This is particularly true when the harassment is physical. If you are experiencing behavior that is sexual in nature and making you uncomfortable, contact Correia & Puth and we can discuss your options to remedy the situation.
The law encourages employers to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Employers should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains. The law also forbids employers from retaliating against an employee who files a charge of harassment or speaks out against harassment. It protects employees from retaliation if they choose to participate in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing on behalf of a co-worker who they believe has had his or her rights violated under Title VII.
Many other laws prohibit harassment on the basis of other protected categories outside than sex, when that harassment creates a hostile work environment. For example, Title VII prohibits race-based harassment and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits harassment based on an employee’s disability. Visit Correia & Puth’s pages on race discrimination here and disability discrimination here to learn more about your rights from harassment, or visit About Us to learn about other protections afforded to employees. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act prohibits sex discrimination and sexual harassment in educational institutions or programs that receive federal funds. Schools have an obligation under Title IX to prevent and address harassment, whether experienced by teachers, students, or other school officials. Learn more about Title IX by visiting Correia & Puth’s page, here.
If you feel you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace or have been subjected to harassment in the past, call us at 202-602-6500 or contact Correia & Puth, PLLC to help you seek justice. We work zealously to represent clients to seek a fair and just resolution for illegal employer conduct.