After weeks, or maybe even months, you finally had enough and worked up the courage to make a sexual harassment complaint at your place of employment. After making your official complaint at work, much to your surprise, nothing happened. If you find yourself the victim of sexual harassment, have made an official complaint either to a supervisor or your human resources department, and no action has been taken, it is time to equip yourself with knowledge and counsel for your next steps.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Under federal and California state law, you have the right to work in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws against sexual harassment and sets forth guidance on what actions may constitute sexual harassment.
It is important to note that sexual harassment includes any of the following:
- Any major or minor unwanted or unwelcome physical touching or contact
- Any form of sexual advances, including verbal offers or requests
- The display or sending of any sexually suggestive explicit pictures via electronic means or posted in offices or public areas
- Any lewd, explicit or sexually suggestive text messages, email, or postings on any social media platform, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
- Any sexually suggestive comments directed at you or around you
Research Proves Grievances Often Fail
Lilia Cortina, a professor of psychology and management at the University of Michigan, has researched sexual harassment in the workplace and the grievance process. This research concluded that the official complaint process often fails for four reasons:
1. The grievance process is rarely used
2. People who file complaints regularly face retaliation
3. Retaliation has negative long-term career and health consequences
4. Formal complaints rarely lead to the removal of the harasser
Filing a complaint regarding sexual harassment with your employer rarely solves the problem and can actually cause more harm than good.
Contact the EEOC
Your next step after filing a grievance in your place of employment is to make the decision whether to file a complaint with the EEOC. You only have 180 calendar days from the date of the sexual harassment to file a claim with the EEOC (or 300 calendar days if there is a state or local agency that enforces a sexual harassment state law).
File a Complaint with the State of California
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California’s AB 1825 law makes certain employer responses mandatory regarding sexual harassment claims. If you choose to file a charge with the FEHA, it may be automatically “dual-filed” with the EEOC as well.
Seek Advice from an Experienced Employment Lawyer
Your employer has a legal obligation to investigate your sexual harassment complaint thoroughly and take necessary action. At California Employment Counsel, APC, we know that sexual harassment grievances in the workplace do not always result in positive outcomes. If your employer refuses to take your grievance seriously, contact one of our experienced attorneys today. Contact us online or call (714) 462-8376 to discuss your legal rights.