“The law condemns sexual harassment as a matter of public policy.”

Here’s what we cover:

Sexual harassment is illegal. A person who is sexually harassed in Arizona may file a charge against her employer with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Arizona Civil Rights Division, and then, if appropriate, sue her employer for sexual harassment.

This article provides the basic information necessary for an employee to make a claim for sexual harassment. (In so doing, it also provides the basic information necessary for an employer to avoid a charge of sexual harassment.)

Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination

A person who has been sexually harassed may file a charge against her employer with the EEOC. In Arizona, the charge must be filed with the Phoenix District Office of the EEOC, located at 3300 North Central Avenue, Suite 690, Phoenix, Arizona 85012-9688. A person with an employment discrimination claim or wishing to file a charge may call the EEOC National Contact Center toll-free at 1-800-669-4000 or 1-800-669-6820 (TTY).

A person usually has 300 days from the date of the harm to file a charge with the EEOC against an employer with 15 or more employees (for discrimination in Arizona based on sex). Charges against employers of less than 15 employees for dis­crimination based on sex must be filed with the Arizona Civil Rights Division within 180 days. The Arizona Civil Rights Division may be contacted by calling (602) 542-5263 (Phoenix) or (520) 628-6500 (Tucson), or through its website: www.ag.state.az.us.

A charge of discrimination will be investigated by the agency with which it is filed. If a charge cannot be resolved by the agency, then the person filing the charge may file a lawsuit against her employer for sexual harassment.

Lawsuit for Sexual Harassment

A sexual harassment lawsuit will generally be filed in the superior court of the county in which the harassment occurred. The employee will be the plaintiff, and the employer will be the defendant in the case.

To establish this claim, the employee must prove that she was sexually harassed and that she was damaged as a result of the harassment.

Sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor expressly or impliedly makes unwelcome sexual conduct as a condition of the plaintiff’s employment or the receipt of job benefits, or both.

A hostile work environment may also constitute sexual harassment. This occurs when:

  1. a supervisor, co-employee, or other person makes sexual advances, requests for sexual conduct, or engages in other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, which a reasonable person would find offen­sive;
  2. the conduct was unwelcome; and
  3. the conduct was sufficiently severe or widespread to alter the condition of the plaintiff’s employment and create an abusive working envi­ronment. If the employer knew or should have known of the hostile work environment and failed to take appropriate action, then the employer is liable for sexual harassment.

If an employer is found to have sexually harassed an employee, the harassed employee will be entitled to money to compensate her for her lost earnings, mental anguish and emotional distress, physical injury, harm to her reputation, and lost insurance coverage for her medical bills.

Legal Tip

A person, to protect his or her legal rights, should contact the EEOC or Arizona Civil Rights Division promptly when discrimination is suspected. The time limits for filing a charge for discrimination are strictly enforced.

The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission. 

Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created. 

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Don Loose Author
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Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know.  Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at don@looselawgroup.com.