Created in 1957 with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society, according to http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/ . The Civil Rights Division enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of color, race, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.
Since its establishment, the Civil Rights division has grown dramatically in both size and scope, and has played a major role in many of the nation’s pivotal civil rights battles. Division attorneys prosecuted the defendants accused of murdering three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964, and were involved in the investigations of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. The Division enforces a wide array of laws that protect the civil rights of individuals. It is led by the Acting Assistant Attorney General and each section is headed by a Section Chief, several Deputy Chiefs and Special Litigation or Legal Counsels. Its leadership, attorneys and administrative staff are located in Washington, D.C.
The Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division enforces against state and local government employers the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and other federal laws prohibiting employment practices that discriminate on grounds of race, sex, religion, and national origin. The Employment Section also enforces against state and local government employers the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee or applicant for employment because of such person’s past, current or future military obligation.
Sexual harassment can be unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, or physical touching of a sexual nature. A person subjected to these types of sexually offensive behaviors may experience work performance interference. Further, this type of work-related misconduct can also create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. People forced to endure this harassment may also experience adverse employment actions and that may constitute retaliation and/or sexual harassment.
In a July 11, 2013 press release, the DOJ announced the filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections. According to the DOJ, attorneys assert in the DOJ lawsuit that a male employed as a cook was subjected to discrimination based on his sex, including frequent unwanted sexual advances made toward him by a female co-worker, frequent profane, suggestive comments and inappropriate touching of his person. The complaint alleges that the female co-worker’s misconduct escalated in August 2008, when she forced her hand down his pants and struck him in the head. A DOJ attorney familiar with the case commented that employees, regardless of their sex, have the right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment.
On April 9, 2013, the DOJ announced settlement of a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by DOJ attorneys on behalf of a female police officer who contended that she received excellent performance reviews until she rejected unwanted sexual advances by a co-worker and reported those advances to superiors. The lawsuit alleged that the police officer’s city employer failed to take effective disciplinary action against the harasser, a male sergeant, and instead subjected her to unwarranted disciplinary actions. A consent decree filed with the DOJ lawsuit required the city to pay damages and revise and enforce its policies and procedures that prohibit sex discrimination. A DOJ civil rights division attorney stated that the case should send a message that the DOJ will take necessary action to eliminate and remedy the effects of unlawful harassment in public sector workplaces.
In another example of DOJ efforts to remedy workplace sex discrimination, the DOJ announced in a September 19, 2012 press release that it entered into a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that the city of Corpus Christi, Texas violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against women when hiring entry-level police officers. The DOJ lawsuit asserted that between 2005 and 2011 the city of Corpus Christi used a physical abilities test when hiring entry-level police officers and that test screened out many more women than men but did not test for what is required on the job. A civil rights division attorney stated that hiring processes, including for those who seek to serve and protect the public as police officers, should be free from discrimination. Among other things, the consent decree requires that Corpus Christi no longer use the physical abilities test challenged by DOJ attorneys for selecting entry-level police officers.
DOJ Employment Litigation information is available on the DOJ’s website at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/emp/ . In addition, the DOJ website lists the telephone number of the Employment Section as (202)514-3831.
Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect individuals against employment discrimination and harassment based upon sex. At www.twc.state.tx.us/crd/sex-discrimination.html, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) explains that sex discrimination occurs when one is treated differently than other employees because of one’s sex, including pregnancy, and stereotypes and assumptions based on sex. TWC examples of unlawful actions are denial of hiring, termination, promotion or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.
As stated by the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division (TWC), Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protect employees from employment discrimination based upon sexual harassment also.
Additional general information provided to the public by the TWC shows that sexual harassment can occur whether the harasser is male or female. The harasser can be a supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a non-employee. The harasser’s behavior must be unwelcome and anyone can be affected by the offensive conduct.
In addition to the TWC, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Again, employment-related sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the EEOC can investigate these types of charges as well.
For Fiscal Year 2013, the EEOC reported in February 5, 2014 news release that it received 93,727 charges. That number represented a 5.7 percent decrease from the 99,412 charges the EEOC received in 2012. As in previous years, retaliation under all statutes enforced by the EEOC was the most frequently cited basis for discrimination charges, increasing in both actual numbers (38,539) and as a percentage of all charges (41.1 percent) from the previous year. In terms of sex discrimination charges, including sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, there were 27,687 charges filed, constituting 29.5 percent of total charges filed for Fiscal Year 2013. EEOC enforcement and litigation data for Fiscal Year 2013 can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/index.cfm .
With respect to the EEOC, further information about the federal agency and the laws it enforces is available on the EEOC website at www.eeoc.gov . In addition, A Houston, Texas office for the EEOC and filing of employment-related complaints about racial harassment is located at Total Plaza, 1201 Louisiana Street, 6th Floor, Houston, Texas 77002. It is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm. A phone number for the Houston office is listed as 1(800)669-4000. The Houston office of the EEOC oversees Eastern Texas and Louisiana.
Whether workplace sexual harassment, including abusive sexist comments, conduct of a sexual nature and jokes, occurs in Corpus Christi, Cuero, Houston or elsewhere in Texas, people subjected to a sexual harassment hostile work environment in Texas may, depending on the nature of the claim, contact the TWC and EEOC or the DOJ to make charges of discrimination and trigger state or federal investigations of sexual harassment complaints. In addition, people subjected to unlawful workplace sexual harassment may consult an attorney to discuss whether the facts and circumstances of the potential employment discrimination case support filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit.