For a federal employee dealing with sexual harassment in a California workplace, there are a number of guidelines to keep in mind that make reporting it somewhat different from doing so in private industry. Harassment may come from a supervisor, a coworker or someone outside the agency such as a contractor. A person does not have to be the object of the harassment to be considered the victim. A previous relationship between the person who is harassed and the person doing the harassing does not make sexual harassment acceptable. Sexual harassment is not necessarily related to gender or sexual orientation.
If an employee is demoted, suspended or removed because of a supervisor’s harassment, the agency is liable. The employee must report the harassment in other cases for the agency to be liable. After an incident of harassment, a person has 45 days to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This can be an informal process.
Federal agencies are required to have policies against sexual harassment, and those policies must meet certain minimum standards. They must clearly define what is prohibited and state that employees are protected against retaliation. There must be a clear process for reporting and investigating harassment, and an employee’s confidentiality must be protected. The employer is required to take action if there has been harassment.
A person who is facing workplace sexual harassment may want to talk to an attorney whether that person works for the government or in private industry. The attorney might be able to advise the employee regarding how to go about documenting and reporting the harassment. Sexual harassment might include lewd comments, unwanted touching or sexually explicit material in the workplace. Despite workplace policies about sexual harassment and retaliation, a person’s workplace might still respond ineffectively, and an attorney’s advice may be helpful.