As we pointed out last month, it is illegal under both Oklahoma and federal law for anyone in a work environment to engage in sexual harassment. This includes requests for sexual favors, sexually-based remarks about appearance or body parts, or derogatory comments regarding someone's gender. We have also touched on the fact that simple teasing, offhand remarks, or mild incidents that are isolated may not be determined to be harassment. On the other hand, though, any on-going pattern that creates a hostile environment on the job may well be. Further, we have discussed that one way to go about seeking redress for such behavior is to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In most cases, there is a time limit for filing a discrimination claim with the EEOC. This is usually 180 days from the event of alleged discrimination, though in certain cases, usually when a state has discrimination laws regarding the same type of discrimination, it may be extended to 300 days. Normally, this deadline applies to each incident of discrimination separately. So, if there were two incidents of discrimination, say, a denied promotion, and then a subsequent demotion, a complaint concerning the demotion would only investigate that event, and not the alleged denial of promotion, unless the complaint was filed within 180 or 300 days of that (the denied promotion) incident.
However, as mentioned above, in sexual harassment cases, the complaint is usually about an on-going pattern of harassment that creates a hostile working environment. This means that, as long as the complaint is filed within 180 or 300 days of the last incident of harassment, the EEOC will investigate all instances of that harassment, even if they occurred prior to those time periods.
Workers in the United States have a right to a harassment-free workplace, whether male or female, and they should not have to be made to feel uncomfortable about going to work. If you have questions about sexual harassment or sex discrimination, or the deadlines involved in filing, it may be a good idea to consider speaking with an experienced Oklahoma employment rights attorney.