Defining Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the federal government is not always clearly defined. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that are sufficiently severe or pervasive (meaning occurring frequently, meaning more than isolated incidents spread out in time) to affect an individual’s terms or conditions of employment. This means that, to be illegal, the sexual harassment must interfere with an employee’s performance, create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, or affect an individual’s salary, position, duties, advancement opportunities, etc. 

Women are not the only potential victims of sexual harassment. It is also unlawful to subject men in the workplace to sexual harassment. Harassment, when not based on a protected class such as sex or race, is not always unlawful in a federal government workplace, even though it may violate agency policy. Comments do not have to be of a sexual nature to be considered illegal harassment, but they do have to have a connection to sex to be illegal.  

What to Do If You’ve Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is unacceptable and illegal in federal government workplaces. Whether the harassment creates a hostile work environment or sexual assault takes place, there are remedies for victims and there should be consequences for perpetrators. If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted by a supervisor or colleague, there are steps you can take protect yourself and your career and reputation. 

When to Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

You are not required to have a lawyer to represent you when you file an EEO complaint. Getting a lawyer to represent you is a good idea, however, for a number of reasons: 

  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault are emotional issues. In the course of resolving your EEO complaint, you will have to describe the incident(s) several times and may be upset or offended by how others, including the perpetrator, characterize what happened. An attorney can provide objective representation because they are not emotionally involved in the situation. 
  • The EEOprocesscan be difficult to navigate, and following it up with the best legal decisions to protect your rights can be complicated. Knowing whether to request a hearing before the EEOC can be a matter of understanding the most successful legal strategy to pursue in your case. An experienced attorney can better protect your rights and fight for a positive resolution of your complaint than you. 
  • Your career with the federal government could be seriously affected by the handling and outcome of your EEO complaint. Having a lawyer to represent you throughout the process can ensure your rights and the future of your career are protected. 
  • Bringing a complaint against the federal government can feel like a David vs. Goliath match-up if you are not represented by counsel. Having legal representation will help balance the scales. 
  • Failure to follow proceduresor meet deadlines can get your complaint dismissed before it is even investigated. At many points in the process, if you make a mistake in procedure, your case may be over before you even get your day in court. It would be in your best interest to have a lawyer familiar with the EEO process and the EEOC’s procedures to handle your complaint. 

Harassment at Work Attorneys You Can Trust

Federal employees, like other workers in this country, are protected against sexual harassment. If you are subject to sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination, we can assist you in navigating the  processes for reporting the harassment, filing a complaint, and seeking a remedy. 

If you are the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the federal government workplace, contact a sexual harassment lawyer at the Federal Practice GroupWe work hard to protect the rights of federal employees against sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. 

What Makes Us Different

From EEO complaints to adverse actions, our experienced federal employment attorneys ensure your entitlement to due process and legal representation every step of the way.

Represent government employees at all federal agencies, nationwide and overseas

Highly-skilled MSPB appeals attorneys with a proven track record

Notable success in EEO complaints and appeals

Frequently Asked Questions

Federal employees are protected from discrimination based on sex, gender, color, race, national origin, religion, age, and disability, and have the right to file an EEO complaint against their agency should they face discrimination. Federal employees also have the right to due process before being subjected to an adverse action  

Yes, federal employees can sue for discrimination, but first you must exhaust administrative remedies, which includes filing a formal complaint with your agency and letting 180 days pass. In many instances, federal employees elect to pursue their EEO complaints through the EEOC’s hearing process instead of filing a civil action. 

Federal employees must initiate contact with an EEO Counselor within 45 days of any act of discrimination. After an informal complaint stage, you will be issued a Notice of Right to File a formal complaint, which will permit you 15 days to do so.  

Federal employees do not have the right to sue for wrongful termination the way private sector employees do, but most federal employees have the right to appeal a removal to the MSPB, which will adjudicate whether the Agency can sustain any charges raised against you.  

Yes, most federal employees can file a complaint against their agency with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if they are facing whistleblower retaliation. If OSC does not accept your complaint for investigation and prosecution, OSC will issue you an Individual Right of Action (IRA) notice giving you the right to pursue corrective action at the MSPB. Federal employees do not have the right to sue in court under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Speak with Our Sexual Harassment Attorneys Today