The District of Columbia (DC) Office of Human Rights is responsible for enforcing the laws that protect people who work in the nation’s capital from sexual harassment. Protections include, for example, a Mayor’s Order, the creation and maintenance of a district website for information about workplace sexual harassment protections, hiring people to investigate sexual harassment complaints, providing anti-harassment training for workers, providing harassment-response training for managers and supervisors, and more. 

 

Updated Mayor’s Order

The Washington DC Mayor’s Order was updated in 2017 to reaffirm that the district would not tolerate workplace sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was labeled as “unjust, demeaning, and demoralizing…misconduct.” The order applies to all DC employees, including companies or people working with or for the government (for example, vendors, contractors, or customers). 

 

DC Human Rights Act

The DC Human Rights Act stipulates, among other things, that it is against the law for any employer or employee to behave toward a colleague in any way that results in a hostile working environment.  Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers understand the expectations, policies, and laws that protect against sexual harassment. 

The act describes 13 protected traits for all people that work or live in or visit DC: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, political affiliation, or family responsibilities. Workplace misconduct based on any of these traits is considered sexual harassment. 

Eight more traits are included in the act, but they apply only to particular areas (such as housing, educational institutions, or employment). Independent resources are available to help you understand whether these traits apply to you.

 

Tipped Wage Workers’ Fairness Clarification Amendment Act

The Tipped Wage Workers’ Fairness Clarification Amendment Act of 2020 requires non-government workplaces to provide tipped employees (servers, bartenders, etc.) with the same information about sexual harassment protections and workplace rights that is provided to hourly and salaried workers. Specifically, employers must display a poster a notice about labor and anti-discrimination laws that explains employee rights to a safe and non-hostile workplace and provides instructions for reporting a sexual harassment incident. The poster must be placed in a conspicuous area (such as in break rooms and by time clocks) that is accessible to all employees. Secondly, employers must a single-source, like a binder, of printed copies of all information posted on the DC website. They must update the binder (at least once per month) to make sure it always contains the same information as the Office of Human Rights website.

 

If It Has Happened to You

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights. The first step is filling out the Employment Intake Questionnaire, which you can submit online, by printing and mailing it, or in person at the Office of Human Rights. Investigations into allegations of sexual harassment will not be considered until you submit the questionnaire.

If the process seems intimidating and complicated, you can get help from a DC lawyer who is an expert in employment law.

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