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Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace: getting the EEOC involved

We’ve been looking at the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace and some of the general rules under federal law regarding harassment. Whenever an employee is subjected to what he or she believes may be sexual harassment, the first step is to work through the employer’s internal processes for addressing the situation. When that is not effective, though, there are additional steps that can be taken.

Getting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involved is one of the first steps. One must file a complaint and an investigation must be completed. In cases where the EEOC determines that the law may have been violated, it will attempt to settle the case with the employer. If no settlement is reached, the EEOC may sue the employer. 

In some cases, the employee may have the ability to sue the employer for violating the law.  This can only happen, though, if the EEOC dismisses the employee’s complaint and provides the employee a Notice of Right to Sue. The EEOC does this if it isn’t able to determine whether the law was violated or if the employee fails to cooperative in the EEOC’s investigation. Whatever the circumstances, notice gives the employee 90 days to file a lawsuit.

There are some situations where an employee does not need Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC to file a lawsuit in court. There are also some situations where an employee may file a lawsuit in federal court before the EEOC finishes its investigation. We’ll say more about this in our next post, and how an experienced attorney is critical when pursuing such cases. 

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