The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the main federal agency in charge of investigating civil rights violations in the workplace. As such, it has an important — and complicated — role in investigating sexual harassment.
Recently, the EEOC announced that it was filing suit against BNSF Railway, a major freight railroad company, for what the agency called years of sexual harassment against female employees. According the EEOC, the harassment included lewd comments and images, graffiti, derogatory comments and more, creating a sexually hostile work environment at one facility. According to the EEOC, when workers complained about the treatment they received, managers laughed at them and did nothing to correct the problem.
Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, sexual harassment is considered a form of unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex. Since the EEOC is the federal agency tasked with investigating sex discrimination in the workplace, a worker who wishes to take legal action against an employer for sexual harassment must generally first file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC will investigate the matter, and if it finds merit to the allegations, issue a Notice of the Right to Sue. This can greatly strengthen the worker’s case. The EEOC can then take action against the employer.
However, EEOC investigations can take a long time, and EEOC lawsuits even longer. Often, workers don’t want to wait for the whole process to play out, and so they seek out help from a private attorney to file suit. To do this, they may need a Notice of the Right to Sue from the local EEOC office that is investigating their case. This is a bureaucratic hurdle, but it is generally faster than waiting for the federal agency to finish its process.
The whole process of filing suit after sexual harassment can be time-consuming and difficult, but many workers who have been through it will say that it was worth it. Those who have been subjected to illegal treatment in the workplace deserve justice and can seek out advice from an experienced attorney.