EEOC Sexual Harassment Settlements in Texas

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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 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.

According to the TWC, 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.

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. Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the EEOC can investigate charges of employment-related sexual harassment. In 2012, the EEOC obtained settlements in sexual harassment lawsuits from companies in the warehouse, dry cleaning and air conditioning businesses.

As described in September 26, 2012 EEOC press release, EEOC attorneys secured a settlement for a female former employee of a Dallas warehouse who charged that she had been subjected to a sexually hostile work environment. According to the EEOC, attorneys filed the sexual harassment lawsuit in a Dallas federal court. The lawsuit alleged that the plaintiff was the only female in the Dallas warehouse where she alleged she experienced unwelcome and sexually vulgar comments, sexual advances and touches by the warehouse manager and other co-workers. More specifically, the lawsuit contended that she experienced unwanted touches, requests for sexual relations, money being rubbed on her body, forced kisses, derogatory names, being called bitch and slut, and even having an employee expose his private parts to her on the job. As a result of the EEOC lawsuit, agency attorneys secured a $30,000 settlement for the plaintiff and other relief, including corrective measures at the company.

On June 25, 2012, the EEOC announced in a press release that a McAllen, Texas dry cleaner and laundry service would pay $43,000 and provide other relief to a former female employee who was subjected to sexual harassment. Filed in the McAllen Division of the United States District Courts for the Southern District of Texas, the EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit charged that a female employee routinely experienced sexual harassment from the dry cleaner’s general manager who solicited sexual favors and often approached the female employee speaking in a suggestive manner and placing his hands on her body. A supervisory trial attorney with the EEOC’s San Antonio field office commented that businesses should exercise care to avoid discriminatory actions.

Earlier that year on February 9, 2012, the EEOC announced that a Weatherford, Texas based air-conditioning company settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by EEOC attorneys in a Dallas federal court. According to the EEOC, the Dallas sexual harassment lawsuit alleged that the female employee was subjected to sexually vulgar comments and touching, including being repeatedly asked to show her breasts. In addition, the lawsuit contended that a manager exposed himself to her and made crude sexual comments. As result of the lawsuit, the company agreed to pay the harassment victim $37,500 and provide extensive injunctive relief to prevent future unlawful conduct. An EEOC trial attorney familiar with that case stated, in part, that women in traditionally male-dominated fields can sometimes face an uphill battle when it comes to reporting and remedying unwelcome sexual conduct on the job and the EEOC is here to help.

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 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.

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