Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment may be verbal, physical, or visual. It may consist of unwelcome advances or requests for sexual favors, or it may include comments about your gender or sexual orientation that make you feel uncomfortable. Every person deserves to go to work without fear of assault or harassment. Despite protections by the Arizona and federal governments, harassment still happens and often goes unreported. For example, an incident may not be reported because the victim is afraid of retaliation, loss of employment, income, or opportunities. They may also fear for their personal safety.
Whatever the case may be, it’s always a good idea to seek legal help – no matter how disturbed or scared you might feel. An experienced civil rights lawyer can give you excellent advice and guide you towards a legal outcome you can feel satisfied with. These professionals will never judge you for any incidents that have happened to you at work, and they will proceed in an efficient manner.
Arizona Civil Rights Act
Since 1992, Arizona employees have been protected from sexual harassment by the Arizona Civil Rights Act (AZ Rev. Stat. Sec. 41-1463 et seq.). The act applies to any workplace with one or more employees. It is applied equally from small businesses in Sedona to large corporations in Phoenix.
Arizona defines harassment as “conduct that is directed at a specific person and that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed” (ARS 13-2921). Behavior is not considered harassment if a victim doesn’t feel alarmed, annoyed, or harassed—regardless of intent. Depending on the situation, harassment may be considered a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 5 felony. This poster, published by the Arizona government, summarizes your rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission add federal protection against sexual harassment. The commission defines harassment similarly to the Arizona Civil Rights Act, and explains that gender-related remarks may be considered harassment, that anyone can be a victim or a harasser, and that harassment may apply in same-gender offenses. Both Arizona and the federal protections state that retaliation for a complaint of sexual harassment is against the law.
What to Do If You Have Been Harassed
If you have experienced sexual harassment and your workplace has one to 14 employees, you must file a complaint with the Arizona Civil Rights Division. You have 300 days to file a complaint, starting the day of the incident.
If you have been harassed at a workplace with 15 or more employees, you must file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You have only 180 days to file, starting the day of the incident.
It can be difficult to approach your employer about harassment, despite their responsibility to support you. If you need help filing a complaint, you can contact a lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment and use online resources to learn more about your rights.