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The EEOC Joins in the #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo movement, a response to the allegations of sexual misconduct brought against wellknown film producer Harvey Weinstein, has brought to light the widespread sexual assault and harassment that occurs everywhere, including the workplace. It seems that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has joined in the movement, as well. Shortly after reconvening the Select Task Force on Harassment during a public meeting referred to as “Transforming #MeToo Into Harassment-Free Workplaces,” the EEOC filed a number of federal lawsuits across the country, including Mobile, Alabama.

EEOC Commissioner hopes to benefit from the movement

Following the public meeting, EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum indicated that the agency was now faced with the challenge of using the #MeToo movement as a catalyst for “significant and sustainable change.” In doing so, the EEOC could potentially benefit from “the attention and commitment of the range of different actors in society.” The comments and actions of the EEOC demonstrate that the #MeToo movement has gained traction at the EEOC.

EEOC sexual harassment case filed in Mobile, Alabama

In a case filed on June 13, 2018, the EEOC sued Master Marine, Inc. alleging that the shipbuilder failed to respond appropriately to employee complaints of sexual and racial harassment toward an Asian male employee. It was alleged that a white male supervisor was making harassing comments and racial slurs toward three other employees who were African-American. The EEOC refers to this type of harassment, involving mistreatment through multiple avenues based on more than one protected characteristic, as “intersectional harassment.”

How is Sexual Harassment defined by the EEOC?

When most people think of sexual harassment, they think of lewd sexual comments either addressed to female employees directly or said in their presence and sexual propositioning. In more extreme cases, we hear about unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature and even rape. But, sexual harassment cases can be more complex than you think. According to the EEOC, which is the administrative body responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate or retaliate against someone in the workplace, sexual harassment is defined as follows: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

In order for harassment to be actionable, it must be shown that it was “sufficiently severe or pervasive.” The most important thing to note is that the requirement for showing harassment is either severe or pervasive. So, a single act of harassment can be sufficient, but only if that one act is sufficiently severe. One example of a single act that is severe enough to establish harassment, is a physical incident. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!