Sexual Harassment at Work: Know Your Rights

You have the right to:

  1. Work in a safe, discrimination-free environment.  Your employer is required by law to provide a safe working environment where you are not harassed or discriminated against based on your actual or perceived sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.
  2. Know what your company’s sexual harassment policies are, including how to report any violations.
  3. Talk about or speak out against sexual harassment, whether it’s happening to you or to someone else. You can talk about sexual harassment or discrimination that’s happening at work to whoever you want, including your coworkers or your supervisor. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for talking with coworkers about harassment or discrimination.
  4. Report the harassment to HR, your boss, or any supervisor. Your company’s policy will outline who to report to, but your company is legally required to address the harassment if you raise it with anyone in a supervisory role. It is important to report harassment internally first if you might want to take legal action later.
  5. Picket or protest against sexual harassment or other kinds of discrimination, or use other pressure tactics to create change. When you join together with one or more of your coworkers to raise concerns about your pay or working conditions, you’re engaging in “concerted activity,” which is legally protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
  6. Have your complaint taken seriously and investigated. As soon as your employer is aware of the sexual harassment allegation, the law requires them to respond quickly to stop it, adequately protect you or the person who’s being harassed, and prevent the harassment from recurring.
  7. Ask your employer what will happen and who will know if you file a complaint.  You may want to keep your complaint confidential, but be aware: Investigations usually involve interviewing the harasser, the person complaining about harassment, and other employees as potential witnesses.
  8. File charges with a government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or your state’s fair employment practices agency. Note: There are strict deadlines for filing charges with government agencies. The deadline to file with the EEOC is either 180 or 300 days from the “last act” of harassment, depending on which state you’re in. In states that have their own anti-discrimination laws and agencies, the deadline to file a discrimination complaint may be different.
  9. File a lawsuit against your employer. This is only an option if you already filed a charge with the EEOC or your state’s FEPA (see #8 above), so you’ll need to talk to them first.
  10. Testify as a witness or participate in an investigation by the EEOC or other government agency. Your employer can’t keep you from providing evidence, testifying at a hearing, or communicating with a government agency that is looking into sexual harassment or other discrimination at your workplace. Even if the investigation eventually finds that there was no harassment, your participation is still a protected right, meaning your employer can’t retaliate against you (punish you) for cooperating.

If you are fired or retaliated against (punished) for doing any of the above, it is illegal, and you could take legal action. Retaliation includes being fired or demoted, cutting your pay, changing your shifts, hours, benefits, or duties, being asked to take time off, or any other action that has a negative effect on you and your working conditions.

If you’re experiencing harassment of any kind, contact one of your local officers, a staffer and/or complete this form.


The CWA Policy on Discrimination is as follows:

  1. The Communications Workers of America reaffirms its commitment as a matter of principle and policy that all forms of discrimination, for whatever reason, be vigorously opposed until all vestiges of discrimination are eliminated from society.
  1. Freedom from discrimination within our Union is a right and privilege of all CWA members. Any abridgment of this right and privilege shall be subject to a complaint under the CWA Internal Appeals Procedures and should be investigated immediately without fear of reprisal and retaliation.
  1. In restating our policy for conduct within our Union, it is equally important that our employers reflect this policy so that neither the Company nor the Union shall unlawfully discriminate against a person on account of race, color, gender, religion, age, marital/parental status, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or because a person is handicapped, a disabled veteran, or a veteran of the military service. This means what it says: “No form of Discrimination will be tolerated at any level of CWA.”
  1. Any matter which relates to the field of discrimination should be immediately and appropriately handled by the appropriate level of the Union that comes across the allegation of discrimination. It should be handled thoroughly in an honest and positive manner.
  1. It is a matter of principle that no one member is more equal than another. The handling of the representation of our members at all levels of CWA should be done in an evenhanded way with no fear; no preference; no favorites.
  1. Local Equity and Women’s Committees can play a positive role by providing continuous education training assistance and by reporting to the members of the Local on the ways and means of eliminating discrimination in its entirety.
  1. CWA Constitutional Committees should be representative of the Union. Local CWA Constitutional Committees should be representative of all the Local membership and should be active committees, not paper committees.
  1. The Union policy to have a job steward for each fifteen members should be fully implemented and should be reflective and representative of the entire membership of each Local.

(Adopted by the CWA Executive Board June 11, 2002; revised December 17, 2009)