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Sexual Harassment

  • A form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is sexual harassment.

    Requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances,  and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment. Sexual harassment affects an individual’s employment by interfering with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

    Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. The parties involved, victim and harasser, can be a woman or a man. They do not have to be the opposite sex. The harasser can be an agent of the employer, a co-worker, the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, or even a non-employee such as a client. Victims are anyone affected by the offensive conduct. Even without economic injury to or discharge of the victim, unlawful sexual harassment can occur. The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

    The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available. It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Criminal charges can also be filed against the harasser.

    The best way to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace is prevention. To prevent sexual harassment from occurring, employers should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment is not tolerated. Establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains will help to prevent sexual harassment.

    If you feel you were a victim of sexual harassment, please call us for a confidential consultation.

  • Employment Discrimination: Overview

    Employment Discrimination laws seek to prevent discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, and age by employers. The body of law preventing or occasionally justifying employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is growing. Bias in hiring, job assignment, compensation, promotion, termination, and various types of harassment are all discriminatory practices. Federal and state statutes compose the main body of employment discrimination laws. Where the employer is a governmental body or the government has taken significant steps to foster the discriminatory practice of the employer, additional protection is provided by The United States Constitution and some state constitutions.

    The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution limit the power of federal and state governments to discriminate. The federal government can not deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law as well as an implicit guarantee that each person receive equal protection of the law as stated in the Fifth Amendment. States are explicitly prohibited from violating an individual’s rights of due process and equal protection in the Fourteenth Amendment. The power of state and federal governments to discriminate in their employment practices by treating job applicants, employees, or former employees unequally because of membership in a group, such as a race or sex, is limited by the right of equal protection. If an employee is terminated due to a liberty, such as the right to free speech, or property interest, due process protection requires that employees have a fair procedural process before the termination. Employment discrimination may also be protected by state constitutions.

    The Constitution does not directly constrain the private sector, but it has become subject to a growing body of federal and state statutes.

    Employers and unions are prohibited by The Equal Pay Act to pay wages based on sex. Where workers perform equal work in jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions, they should be provided equal pay. However, it does not prohibit discriminatory practices in hiring.

    Many more aspects of employment discrimination are prohibited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, or sex which includes pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Discrimination in hiring, discharging, compensation, or terms, conditions, and privileges of employment was made illegal by the Act. Employment agencies may not discriminate when hiring or referring applicants. The Act also prohibits labor organizations from basing membership or union classifications on sex, religion, national origin, race, or color.

    The Nineteenth Century Civil Rights Acts was amended in 1993. The Act ensures all persons equal rights under the law as well as outlining the damages available to victims under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age. An employee is protected from discrimination based on age if he or she is over 40. Explicit guidelines for retirement, pension, and benefit plans are outlined in the ADEA.

    Through the elimination of discrimination and affirmative action programs, The Rehabilitation Act’s purpose is to promote and expand employment opportunities in the public and private sectors for handicapped individuals. Employers covered by the act include employers receiving federal contracts over $2500 or federal financial assistance agencies of the federal government. The Department of Labor enforces section 793 of the act which refers to employment under federal contracts. The Department of Justice enforces section 794 of the act which refers to organizations receiving federal assistance. The EEOC enforces the act against federal employees and individual federal agencies promulgate regulation pertaining to the employment of the disabled.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to eliminate discrimination against those with handicaps. The type of discrimination prohibited is broader than that explicitly outlined by Title VII. It prohibits employers engaged in interstate commerce and state governments from discrimination based on a physical or mental handicap.

    Discrimination of miners who suffer from pneumoconiosis, or “black lung”, is prohibited by The Black Lung Act.

    The Equal Payment Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII, Americans With Disabilities Act, and sections of the Rehabilitation Act are interpreted and enforced by The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) . The Commission was established by Title VII. Its enforcement provisions are contained in section 2000e-5 of Title 42, and its regulations and guidelines are contained in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 1614.

    Extensive protection from employment discrimination which are not covered by federal acts are provided by state statutes. Some laws extend similar protection as provided by the federal acts to employers who are not covered by those statutes. A number of state statutes provide protection for individuals who are performing civil or family duties outside of their normal employment.