Sexual harassment in the federal workplace continues to be a major issue for public servants.
According to a survey by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), approximately 14% of employees experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Given this high incidence, every federal employee must understand what sexual harassment looks like. In addition, we want to equip you with the information you need to respond effectively.
Read on to learn more about the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace. We’ll also cover how to respond to sexual harassment if you encounter it.
For more information, contact the outstanding legal team at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, today.
What Is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) broadly categorizes sexual harassment as a form of sexual discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
More specifically, sexual harassment involves situations where acceptance or rejection of certain sexual actions become a condition of employment, affect an individual’s workplace treatment, or lead to an unwelcome work environment.
Examples of specific actions that can constitute sexual harassment include repeated unsolicited sexual overtures or demands, threats of sexual violence, and sexual gestures.
What does this look like in reality? It might be continuous unsolicited sexual texts from a colleague or boss. Or it could be your superior promising you a promotion if you sleep with them.
It could even be a partner at your office who keeps asking you to renew your romantic relationship despite your refusals.
What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
“Quid pro quo” sexual harassment is a specific subset of sexual harassment that involves the transactional use of sex in the workplace.
“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase meaning “something given for something received.” Thus, quid pro quo sexual harassment is a promise of career benefits if a sexual advance is accepted.
It can also be a threat to harm your career unless you accept a person’s sexual interest. Either way, it’s against the law and demands rapid response.
How to Report Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Whatever its form, sexual harassment is intolerable. This fact is especially true in the federal workplace, which has traditionally spearheaded advances in civil rights.
Everyone deserves respect, safety, and the right to perform their duties without fear or discomfort.
Reporting such incidents is not just a step towards justice. It’s also a crucial action to ensure workplaces remain respectful and productive.
That said, here’s how you can report sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Document the harassment. Begin by carefully documenting each incident. Write down dates, times, locations, relevant parties, and the nature of the harassment.
- Collect your evidence. Secure any tangible evidence like emails, text messages, or photographs.
- Approach the offender (optional). Consider addressing the harasser directly if you feel safe and comfortable doing so. Sometimes, letting the person know their behavior is unwelcome might stop the harassment.
- Notify an individual with authority. Report the incident(s) to your immediate supervisor or manager. If they are the harasser or you’re uncomfortable approaching them, escalate the issue to higher management or the human resources department.
- File an EEO complaint. Every federal agency has an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office. You can initiate the complaint process by contacting your agency’s EEO counselor within 45 days of the harassment incident.
- Cooperate with your Agency’s EEO personnel. Once you are in touch with an EEO counselor, carefully follow their directions. Also, stay aware of all relevant procedural deadlines.
- Comply with the EEO investigator. If you proceed with your complaint after initial counseling, the EEO office will launch an investigation. The assigned investigator will collect evidence, interview witnesses, and thoroughly review the situation.
- Request a hearing. If you are unsatisfied with the investigation’s outcome, request an EEOC hearing. An EEOC administrative judge will then review the case.
- Seek legal representation. Consider hiring an attorney experienced in federal workplace laws and sexual harassment cases. They can provide guidance, ensure your rights are protected, and represent you if the situation escalates.
Remember that federal law prohibits retaliation against employees who report sexual harassment or participate in an EEO investigation. If you face any retaliation, report it immediately.
Defend Your Rights by Contacting Us Today
Dealing with sexual harassment requires courage, grit, and patience. However, obtaining legal counsel is vital for protecting your career and rights. It also helps guarantee that your agency takes your allegations seriously.
Our team at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, maintains a deep understanding of federal employment laws.
We also have a strident commitment to protecting employees’ rights. Together with our decades of legal experience, we stand by to help protect you against all forms of sexual harassment.
If you or someone you know is grappling with sexual harassment issues in the federal sector, contact us today.
When you schedule an appointment, we can apply our experience, compassion, and dedication to your interests. Your well-being and justice matter to us. Contact us today.