What should I do if I think I am being harassed?
First, you can try to talk to the person who is harassing you and ask him or her to stop engaging in the offensive behavior. You should also document the situation and your response to it. If the harassment does not stop, review your company’s sexual harassment policy and report it to a supervisor or to HR. You may also want to discuss the situation with a lawyer.
My boss is a female and I am a male. She regularly sends me suggestive e-mails and tells me offensive jokes, but to my knowledge, she doesn’t do that with other employees. Do I have a claim?
A person of either sex can be the victim of sex discrimination and sexual harassment. Here, it seems that you may be the victim of sexual harassment, but it may not rise to the level that is “severe and pervasive” enough for a court to consider it actionable. You should share the details of your situation with an experienced attorney to get further advice.
My boss has made my working situation intolerable. Every day, I feel discriminated against and harassed. He constantly subjects me to unequal treatment because of my sex. I complained to HR, but no one is taking any steps to stop him from discriminating against me. I am losing sleep and starting to get sick from the stress of being at work. I want to quit, but I am worried that I will not be able to sue if I do. What should I do?
The law does not require you to suffer indefinitely in order to file a lawsuit. If the conditions are so severe that a “reasonable person” would think that there was no choice but to quit, a court might consider that you were “constructively discharged” from your employment. In essence, this means your employer created a terrible work environment in an effort to encourage you to quit. Before you quit, you must have complained to HR, your supervisor, or another manager and given your company an adequate opportunity to rectify the situation, and the mistreatment must have continued despite your complaint.
My company has 14 employees, so it just misses the 15-employee threshold for federal law to apply. Do I have any legal protection if my boss tries to let me go?
You are right that your employer is not bound by Title VII if it has fewer than 15 employees. There are a couple of things to note here. First, the EEOC is expansive in how it gets to 15. It includes any workers who could be considered employees of the company, even part-time employees. For instance, let’s say your company has 14 employees in the office. However, it turns out that the boss employs his sister full time as a bookkeeper but improperly classifies her as a contractor. The EEOC will likely find that the company has the required 15 employees for the purposes of federal employment law. Second, let’s assume your company does really only have 14 employees. It is possible that you have some protection under state law or even a county ordinance. For instance, the D.C. Human Rights Law, which protects pregnant employees, applies to all companies within the District, regardless of the number of employees. If you are in Arlington, Virginia, you are covered by the Arlington County Human Rights Code, which covers any employer with four or more employees. But sadly, it is possible that you have little protection if your state or county does not have a law covering employers with 14 or fewer employees.
Can a person discriminate against or harass someone of his or her own sex?
Yes. The key is that the discrimination or harassment occurred because of the person’s sex.