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Responding to Sexual Harassment/Assault in the Workplace

In regards to workplace sexual harassment and assault, survivors may have both civil and criminal legal remedies available to them. Sexual harassment falls under Federal and Washington State employment discrimination laws. There are two forms of sexual harassment in employment which are illegal: 1) hostile work environment and 2) quid pro quo (See resources below for specifics about these types of claims).

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes employers liable to prevent and stop sexual harassment of employees. Under Title VII, covered employers must: (1) take reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment; (2) take reasonable care to promptly correct sexual harassment that has occurred. Before an employer can be legally responsible for taking reasonable care to correct sexual harassment, the employer must be aware that the harassment has occurred.

RCW 49.60 is Washington State's "law against discrimination," which includes sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in employment.

Options for Survivors:

  1. Document the harassment and report to your employer. Follow your agency's internal grievance policies.
  2. File a complaint with Washington State's Human Rights Commission and/or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Complaints must be filed within a certain amount of time from the date of the harm (In Washington, employment claims have a statute of limitations of 6 months).
  3. Consult with a civil attorney regarding legal action. Unlike Federal law, Washington law does not require an employee to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission first.
  4. A report may also be made to local law enforcement authorities. They will determine if the actions also violate criminal statutes.

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Reviewed: April 15th, 2015