Sexual Harassment Law in Arkansas
Sexual harassment can be considered a form of physical, verbal, and/or visual discrimination. It may be directly related to your gender, sexual orientation, race, or other characteristics. In most states, harassment is described as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that affects your employment, interferes with your performance at work, or results in an intimidating, hostile, and/or offensive environment at your workplace.
Arkansas sexual harassment policy focuses on gender discrimination toward women. But what happens when your boss is the person harassing you? When you work for a small company? Workers, from Ogden to urban Pulaski county, deserve the same access to a harassment-free workplace.
Arkansas Civil Rights Act
The Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 was the first law in the Natural State to prohibit workplace discrimination. It focuses on gender and specifically protects women from workplace harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. In 1993, Arkansas was one of a few states that did not have anti-harassment legislation. Though the law was not popular among Arkansan employers, courts passed it.
State courts in 2003 (Island v. Buena Vista Resort, 352 Ark.) confirmed that the Arkansas Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment at work. However, a precedent was established—the law only protects a woman who follows her employer’s complaint procedure to report sexual harassment. If she doesn’t, she is unable to prove that her employer knew about the harassment (Anda v. Wickes Furniture Co., 517 F.3d 526, 2008). Without first following employer human resources policy to complain about the harassment, she was unable to prove that her employer knew about and failed to protect her from the harassment.
Federal Support for Victims
The Federal Human Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin,” making it illegal for employers to use gender in hiring, promotions, firing, or compensation decisions. Courts have established that sexual discrimination falls under the general category of discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides overlapping protection from sexual harassment in a workplace. The commission defines harassment similarly and stipulates that gender-specific and gender-offensive remarks may be considered harassment, that any gender can be a victim or a harasser, and that harassment is not limited to different-gender offenses.
In every case, at both the state and federal level, it is against the law to retaliate against an employee who files a sexual harassment complaint.
If You Have Been Harassed
Both the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 and the Federal Human Rights Act of 1964 are meant to protect you from sexual harassment at work in Arkansas. If you have been harassed, you must first follow the correct legal steps to report it to your employer. The legal process is complex, and you may need help navigating it. For more information about your rights and for local help with filing a complaint, see these online resources.