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.
According to a February 21, 2019 EEOC Press Release, an Italian restaurant located in Orlando, Florida’s Restaurant Row agreed to pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit the EEOC filed against the restaurant.
In that restaurant sexual harassment lawsuit, the EEOC charged that the restaurant owner created and encouraged a work environment in which unwelcome, sexually charged comments and conduct was permissible and commonplace, and which allowed for the repeated propositioning of a female bartender who asked to go on dates, described to restaurant patrons as single and available to them, subjected to sexual innuendo and, among other things, told to dress sexy before she complained and was fired.
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 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 employment related job loss for reporting or opposing sexual harassment occurs in Houston or elsewhere, people subjected to employer allowed sexually hostile terms and conditions of employment or retaliation arising out of opposition to sexual harassment may contact the TWC or EEOC to make charges of discrimination and trigger state or federal investigations of retaliation and hostile work environment complaints. In addition, people subjected to unlawful workplace sexual harassment and retaliation may consult an attorney to discuss whether the facts and circumstances of the potential employment discrimination case support filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit.