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Know Your Time Limits – Sexual Harassment

Are There Time Limits for Sexual Harassment Complaint At Work?


Workplace sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination that is prohibited by both state and federal law. If you believe you were sexually harassed in the workplace, you need to take action as soon as possible. Filing a claim comes with several steps and time limits that require full compliance.

You should start with your employer and follow their policy for reporting the harassment. But you also have the right to check and discuss the matter with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) field office. EEOC agents will be able to give you the best advice about your options.

The EEOC has set deadlines for discrimination charges, including sexual harassment.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Workplace Sexual Harassment?

You’re probably conflicted about your circumstance. But if it lends to a harassment claim, it’s recommended that you seek redress immediately. That’s because filing charges with the EEOC is bound by time limits.

In general, any type of discrimination charges must be filed with the EEOC within 180 calendar days of the alleged incident. 

An extension toward 300 days is allowed if there is a state law covering your claim, e.g. sexual harassment, and a state or local agency enforcing it.

Meanwhile, the 300-day time limit only applies to age discrimination in employment charges if there’s a state law prohibiting it and a state agency or authority enforcing it. If only a local ordinance exists, the deadline remains 180 days.

Holidays and weekends are counted toward 180 or 300 days. But should the deadline fall on a holiday or weekend, you can still file until the next business day.

Two or More Discriminatory Events

If your complaint involves two or more discriminatory events, the deadline typically applies to each event.

For example, you experienced sexual harassment at work and got fired a year later. One is related to sex-based discrimination, thus, a claim should be filed within 180 or 300 days of the last incident. The other can be considered retaliation, and its time limit should separately be 180 or 300 days from the date you were fired.

The EEOC will only investigate the claim that is filed within its deadline. If the dismissal occurred a year ago, this means the sexual harassment charge is past its due date.

An exception to the rule would be if the sexual harassment continued until you were fired.

Ongoing Harassment

In our example above, you still need to file a harassment claim within 180 or 300 days of the last incident. However, the EEOC will consider all incidents of harassment during its investigation.

Note: The rules are different for federal employees and job applicants. In their case, they must contact an EEO Counselor within 45 days.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Source: 2016 EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is defined by the EEOC as unlawful sex-based acts directed at a person, regardless of their gender.

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is a form of sexual discrimination

It is commonly recognized in unwelcome sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. But it also has subtle, non-sexual forms, such as being denied a promotion or given a different shift due to one’s gender.

Here are other signs you’re being harassed at work:

  • The unwanted action makes you uncomfortable, intimated, and threatened;
  • You can’t make it stop, and it just gets more frequent;
  • It affects your work, causing you to perform poorly, miss work, reschedule regular shifts, rejecting a promotion, or quit your job altogether;
  • It persists outside the workplace through text messages or phone calls; and
  • It causes your health or wellbeing to decline.

Employer’s Liability for Harassment

There are two types of sexual harassment claims that employees can file.

When workplace harassment becomes intolerable to a reasonable person, you can file a hostile work environment claim. The validity of the case will hinge on multiple factors, including the frequency of the misconduct, whether the offender was a coworker or supervisor, and whether others were involved.

The other type is called quid pro quo. It’s when a supervisor or higher-ranking individual asks for sexual favors in return for promotion, salary increase, continued employment, and other work benefits.

Young workers are especially vulnerable.

According to the EEOC, the employer is automatically liable if a supervisor conducts any form of harassment resulting in negative action. Once it devolves into a hostile work environment, the employer can stop and correct the harassing behavior. If the supervisor fails to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities, the employer can be released from the responsibility.

The employer may also be liable for harassment by employees with non-supervisory roles and non-employees under its control, such as independent contractors and customers. However, liability applies if the employer has knowledge of the harassment and fails to stop or correct it.

How to File Workplace Sexual Harassment Complaint

Here are the steps you should take ASAP to avoid exceeding the time limit for filing a claim:

  1. Check your company’s anti-harassment policy. You may search for it on its website or in your employee handbook. 
  2. If there is a policy, follow the steps on filing a complaint. Take note of the date, time, and location of the incident. Gather witnesses if possible. Keep proof of the conduct, especially virtual versions such as emails and text messages. Ask the HR to include the harassment report in your employee file.
  3. If there is no policy, seek help from your immediate superior or that of your harasser. You can go to someone with a higher position and explain your situation if the violator is your supervisor or an HR staff member.
  4. Know your rights. You should not experience retaliation or punishment for reporting the harassment.
  5. If you’re confused about what to do after reporting the violation to your company, call the nearest EEOC agency for guidance. You can also proceed to file a sexual harassment charge with the EEOC. You can choose to do it online, in an EOOC office, or in other channels across the country. 

Lawsuit Funding on Workplace Sexual Harassment Cases

If you have already retained an attorney and filed a workplace harassment lawsuit against your employer and are experiencing financial difficulties, TriMark Legal Funding can provide pre settlement funding that can help you pay your bills until your settlement is finalized.

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