The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII). More specifically, harassment based on sex is a violation of Section 703 of Title VII. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
As stated by the EEOC, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual natures constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. Victims may be male or female. The conduct must be unwelcome. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or a non-employee. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. It can occur without economic injury and without an affected individual being fired.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding or litigation under Title VII.
When investigating sexual harassment charges, the EEOC looks at the whole record, including the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged harassment incidents occurred. EEOC sexual harassment information is at www.eeoc.gov .
Examples of EEOC employment discrimination lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in the restaurant and bar industry are numerous.
In a March 10, 2014 EEOC press release, the EEOC announced that a restaurant would pay $20,000 and furnish significant equitable relief in order to settle an EEOC sexual harassment case. File by EEOC attorneys in federal court, the federal agency’s sexual harassment lawsuit alleged that a restaurant co-owner frequently made offensive comments of a crude or sexual nature to, or in the presence of, female employees and that he also touched female employees in a sexual manner. As announced by the EEOC, the lawsuit further charged that the restaurant co-owner continued engaging in this conduct despite complaints about the misconduct. An EEOC attorney familiar with the case said that the settlement requirements were designed to protect all employees at the restaurant from harassment or retaliation.
On May 29, 2013, the federal agency announced in a press release that a Chinese quick service restaurant would pay $150,000 and furnish other relief to settle an EEOC restaurant harassment lawsuit filed by EEOC attorneys on behalf of at least three female teenagers who were allegedly sexually harassed between 2007 and 2009 while working at the restaurant. According to the EEOC press release, one male kitchen supervisor at the restaurant where the incidents occurred sexually harassed some females on staff, some of whom were the ages of 17 and 19, subjecting them to sexual comments, language and advances. Upon reporting harassment, the EEOC contended that the restaurant failed to take enough action to stop or correct the situation.
In another example, the EEOC announced in a September 28, 2012 press release, that it sued a restaurant bar and grill for fostering a culture which enabled the sexual harassment of a number of female employees by owners and managers, who allegedly made frequent comments of a sexual nature to subordinate female employees. An EEOC attorney familiar with that restaurant sexual harassment lawsuit stated, in part, that no employee can be forced to endure sexual misconduct at work.
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.
In addition to the EEOC and federal laws prohibiting workplace sexual harassment, Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 protect individuals against employment discrimination and harassment based upon sex. At www.twc.state.tx.us/crd/sex-discrimination.html, the Texas Workforce Commission 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. 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.
Whether workplace sexual harassment, including abusive sexist comments, conduct of a sexual nature and jokes, occurs at restaurants, bars or grills in Beaumont, Houston or elsewhere in Texas, people subjected to a sexual harassment hostile work environment in Texas may contact the TWC or EEOC 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.