Si usted tiene una demanda de acoso sexual laboral, lo que usted reporta inicialmente a la Comisión de Igualdad de Oportunidades de Empleo (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission en inglés), y cómo lo reporta, puede afectar su demanda legal en las cortes.

Antes de interponer una demanda de acoso sexual laboral en contra de su empleador bajo el Título VII de las leyes de Estados Unidos, la vícitma debe de primero presentar cargos con el EEOC (siglas en Inglés para la Comisión de Igualdad de Oportunidades de Empleo). El EEOC entonces emite una notificación llamada “derecho a demandar,” la cual le permite a la víctima interponer su demanda en las cortes.

En la reciente opinión en el caso Little v. CRSA emitida el 15 de Agosto del 2018 por el Décimo Primer Circuito de la Corte Federal de los Estados Unidos, la Corte decidió que la demanda de acoso sexual de Sybil Little estaría limitada sólo a los cargos que ella presentó anteriormente con el EEOC, y afirmó la decisión de la corte del distrito, la cual desestimó la demanda federal de Sybil Little en su totalidad.

Sybil Little estuvo empleada desde el 2006 como Técnica y Coordinadora de Seguridad de la compañía CRSA en Fort Rucker, Alabama. En su demanda en la corte federal, Sybil Little alegó que ella había sido víctima de continuos acosos sexuales de parte de Jason Patrick, el Director de Operaciones de CRSA, y de Ricky Norris, Jefe de Técnincos de CRSA. Ella alegó que Patrick le propuso tener relaciones sexuales y que Norris le hizo comentarios sobre su cuerpo y apariencia personal, y la motivó a que usara vestidos y tacones para que él puediera verla trepar por la escalera.

El principal error de Sybil Little al presentar su demanda en la corte federal fue que ella sólo incluyo en su cargo con el EEOC la alegada discriminación sexual de parte de Norris, y no la de Patrick, y tampoco incluyó en su demanda con el EEOC ningún alegato de discriminación sexual en contra de su empleador, CRSA.

La decisión del Décimo Primer Circuito detalla lo siguiente:

Las demandas ante el EEOC no se interpretan de manera estricta, y la demandas judiciales son permitidas sólo si las mismas amplian, aclaran, o se enfocan con más detalles en las alegaciones presentadas antes el EEOC. En el caso de Sybil Little, las alegaciones de su demada federal no podían aclarar alegatos que ella no incluyó en su demanda ante el EEOC.”

Bajo el Título VII de las leyes de los Estados Unidos, un reclamo de acoso sexual no se puede mantener en contra de personas naturales como Norris y Patrick, sólo en contra de empleadores como CRSA. Basado en el único alegato de conducta indebida de parte de Norris, CRSA pudiera haber sido responsable bajo el Título VII si Norris hubiera sido un supervisor inmediato de Little, lo cual haría a CRSA responsable subsidiaria por la conducta de su empleado. CRSA también pudiera haber sido responsable subsidiaria si hubiese sabido o debía de haber sabido sobre la conducta de acoso sexual de su empleado, y no hubiese tomado medidas correctivas con relación a ésta conducta. Little, sin embargo, no inluyó en su demanda ningún alegato estableciendo que Norris era su superior, ni tampoco incluyó alegaciones de que ella reportó la conducta indebida de Norris a sus directores o al departamento de Recusos Humanos. Las meras alegaciones de Little de que Norris le hizo comentarios ofensivos no son suficientes para demostrar que la dirección de CRSA sabía o debió de haber sabido del acoso sexual.

Si usted ha sido víctima de acoso sexual en su lugar de empledo, usted debe de hablar de éste asunto con un abogado especializado en este tipo de leyes, él cual lo puede guiar en todos los aspectos necesarios para poder reclamar sus derechos, desde el presentar un cargo con el EEOC hasta radicar la demanda en las cortes estatales o federales.

If you have a claim for workplace sexual harassment, what is initially reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and how it’s reported, may affect your legal claim in court.

Before filing a lawsuit based on workplace sexual harassment against an employer under Title VII, a victim is required to file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC then issues a “right to sue” notice, which allows the victim to file his/her claim in court.

In the recent case of Little v. CRSA, released by the Eleventh Circuit on August 15, 2018, the Court held that Sybil Little’s sexual harassment claim was limited by the scope of her EEOC charge, and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of her complaint.

Since 2006, Sybil Little had been employed as a technician and safety coordinator at CRSA in Fort Rucker, Alabama. She alleged in her federal court action that she was the victim of continuing sexual harassment by Jason Patrick, CRSA’s Operations Manager, and Ricky Norris, CRSA’s Lead Technician. She alleged that Patrick propositioned her for sex and that Norris commented on her body and appearance and encouraged her to wear dresses and heels so that he could watch her climb a ladder.

Sybil Little’s mistake was to only include in her EEOC charge the alleged discrimination carried out by Norris, but not by Patrick and, more importantly, she failed to include any allegations about her employer, CRSA.

The Eleventh Circuit opinion pointed out that

EEOC complaints are not strictly interpreted, and judicial claims are allowed if they amplify, clarify, or more clearly focus the allegations in the EEOC charge. But, Little’s allegations could not clarify what was not in her EEOC charge.”

Under Title VII, a claim cannot be maintained against individuals like Norris and Patrick, only against employers like CRSA. Based on the only alleged misconduct by Norris, CRSA would be held liable if Norris was alleged to be a supervisor with immediate or successively higher authority over Little, which then would make CRSA vicariously liable. CRSA could be also held directly liable if it knew or should have known of the harassing conduct but failed to take prompt remedial action. Little, however, plead no facts that Norris was anything other than a co-employee, and Little did not set forth any allegations that she told management about Norris’s misconduct. Her mere allegations that Norris made offensive comments were not enough to show that CRSA management should have known of the harassment.

If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, you should discuss your story with an attorney who can guide you in all the steps necessary to properly assert your legal claim, from filing a EEOC charge through handling litigation in court. Please contact us to set up a confidential consultation.

The world’s third largest airline has been accused of failing to protect a female flight attendant from years of harassment by a male pilot. The Washington Post reports that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas last week, alleging that the airline refused to take action against a pilot who posted compromising photos of the attendant online, even after she complained to her superiors and the pilot was arrested for stalking (here is a PDF of the Complaint). The EEOC issued a statement on the lawsuit.

Consensual Relationship, Photos, and an Injunction

The Post reports that the woman, who is not identified in the complaint, began a consensual relationship with United pilot Mark Uhlenbrock in 2002, and allowed him to take pictures and record video of her in provocative poses.  She ended the relationship in 2006 when she discovered that Uhlenbrock had posted the pictures on a website for swingers without her knowledge and refused to stop.  The harassment, however, was just beginning.  Over the next decade, Uhlenbrock continued to post the pictures and videos on the internet, including partially nude images of the woman in her uniform, and listing her name, occupation, and home airport.  The Post reports that she filed at least three lawsuits against Uhlenbrock, obtaining a $100,000 damages award and a permanent injunction barring Uhlenbrock from posting the images.  The FBI became involved when he continued to post the images, ultimately arresting Uhlenbrock in 2015 for stalking. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.

No Action from United Airlines

The EEOC’s complaint focuses on United’s response, or lack thereof.  According to the suit, the woman reported the harassment to United’s human resources department and general counsel on several occasions, but the company refused to take action.  Amazingly, the airline allegedly told the woman the Uhlenbrock’s conduct did not constitute workplace sexual harassment and did not warrant intervention or action by the company.  The EEOC alleges that this to prevent and correct Uhlenbrock’s conduct violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual harassment.  The complaint notes that Uhlenbrock had supervisory authority over flight attendants, and that the airline had rules of conduct, disciplinary mechanisms, applicable policies and procedures, and the authority to prevent and correct Uhlenbrock’s harassment.  Perhaps most disturbingly, United allegedly granted Uhlenbrock long-term disability following his arrest, and allowed him to retire with full benefits following his guilty plea.

The complaint, which was filed after the EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process, asks the court to order United to pay compensatory and punitive damages to the flight attendant, and permanently enjoin the airline from engaging in further gender-discriminatory practices.  The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to create and carry out policies and practices that eliminate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the EEOC statement, Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez notes that “United was aware of the intimate details of how its pilot was harassing its flight attendant, but took no responsibility to put a stop to it. As a result, over a period of many years, the flight attendant had to work every day in fear of humiliation if a co-worker or customer recognized her from the pilot’s postings. This is unacceptable, and the EEOC is here to fight such misconduct.” According to the Post’s report, a United spokesman disputed the EEOC’s allegations, and claimed that “United does not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and will vigorously defend itself against this case.”

We will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Q&A with Mediator Robert Dulberg

Whether you have filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, in the middle of litigation, or set for trial, you may be invited to mediate your case. Once litigation has started, a judge might even order the parties to attend mediation. Renowned mediator Robert A. Dulberg from the alternative dispute resolution firm Salmon & Dulberg Dispute Resolution agreed to answer a few questions for us and share his advice on preparing for and attending mediation. Mr. Dulberg has mediated over 7,000 cases and is one of the most respected mediators in the South Florida legal community known for helping parties settle their cases.

Q: Do you think there are any instances in which mediation would not be beneficial in a sexual harassment or discrimination case?

Mediator Robert Dulberg

A: I don’t think there are instances where mediation would not be beneficial, although obviously mediation won’t be successful in every case. However, there are some special considerations for sexual harassment or discrimination cases. For example, the parties may want to forego a joint session, especially if the employer’s representative is the party who allegedly harassed or discriminated. The attorneys can present their opening without their client present if it would create unnecessary discomfort for the employee. Other than that, I see no reason why these cases cannot be mediated and I have, in fact, mediated many discrimination cases. Among the advantages are: it’s an opportunity for the “victim” to express his or her concerns, and for the employer to resolve the situation in a confidential setting.

Q: Do you think mediation is more beneficial before or after a complaint is filed in court?

A: I’m not sure that it’s true for every case, but frequently, mediation is more beneficial before the complaint is filed. For one thing, the attorneys’ fees and costs will likely be considerably less than after the parties have been litigating for a while. Additionally, the complaint and any ongoing litigation may create a situation where the parties’ positions have hardened and they are more invested in the litigation. That said, there are instances where it is necessary to file the complaint, e.g. where there is a need for a temporary injunction, or where some limited discovery needs to occur before the parties can make informed decisions.

Q: What do think is the biggest sticking point that often leads to impasse during mediation?

A: Reaching a resolution in mediation requires a commitment: to listen and learn, to be patient, and recognize that all parties’ interests have to be accommodated in order to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution. Being impatient can be a reason for an impasse. Another sticking point is where the parties have not adequately prepared or obtained necessary information to make a decision. As a sidelight, not having parties with adequate authority is another reason for an impasse.

Q: What do you see as the biggest mistake parties make during mediation?

A: I’ll start with the biggest mistake parties make before mediation: failure to prepare. During mediation, I think the biggest mistake parties make is not being willing to commit to negotiating until there is no further movement. I would prefer, as a mediator, to be criticized for trying too hard as opposed to giving up too easily. I always try to keep the parties talking. It’s also a frequent mistake for parties to show up without adequate authority to settle the case.

Q: What are your top 3 pieces of advice for individuals planning to go to mediation, either with or without an attorney?

A: (1) Prepare your presentation and your response to the other side’s presentation. (2) Manage your expectations. Remember both sides’ interests have to be accommodated, be realistic.(3) Read Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton.

Entrevista Con La Mediadora Ilida Alvarez

Después de que usted presenta cargos con el EEOC (siglas del inglés Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), el EEOC a veces les pedirá a su empleador y a usted que participen en su programa de mediación. Si su empleador y usted acuerdan mediar el caso, entonces se programará una mediación para que un mediador trate de ayudarlos a llegar a un acuerdo. Para muchas personas, una mediación puede parecer un proceso intimidante, pues normalmente uno no participa en una mediación al menos que esté en proceso de divorcio o esté involucrado en una disputa legal. El mediador es una persona neutral que está entrenado(a) para ayudar a facilitar la negociación de un acuerdo entre las partes.  Para adentrarnos en el proceso de mediación y los beneficios del mismo, le pedí a la mediadora, Ilida Alvarez, que compartiera con nosotros lo que piensa de la mediación y que nos explique este proceso con más detalle.

Preparándose Para La Mediación

Mediadora Ilida Alvarez

Antes de ir a una mediación, es importante saber qué esperar y cómo prepararse para la misma. Alvarez recomienda que las partes, ya sea que estén o no representadas por un abogado, se preparen de forma similar pensando “qué es lo que desean versus qué es lo que necesitan para llegar a un acuerdo.”   Alvarez también recomienda que las personalidades de todos los involucrados sean consideradas al momento de seleccionar al mediador.  “Muchas veces, el que el mediador sea un hombre o una mujer, o la edad del mismo(a), pueden hacer la diferencia.  Otras veces, quizás quieran un mediador que los empuje, que sea firme y no tan amigable, dependiendo de la personalidad del cliente.”

Alvarez explica que cuando uno tiene un abogado, el cliente no ve todo el trabajo que conlleva prepararse para participar en una mediación, como por ejemplo, preparer el resúmen de pre-mediación que los abogados por lo general le proporcionan a ella para que se informe de los hechos del caso. Con relación a la mediación en sí, Alvarez explica:

Casi siempre comenzamos la mediación con una sesión conjunta con todas las partes presentes.   Yo me siento en la cabecera de la mesa con el abogado del demandante y el demandante a un lado, y el abogado del defendido y el defendido al otro. Doy una corta presentación sobre lo que deben esperar en la mediación, como por ejemplo, la confidencialidad y el hecho de que todo lo que las partes me dicen cuando estamos en la sesión individual es privado y confidencial, al menos que me digan lo contrario.  Luego les explico lo que yo espero de ellos en la mediación.  Durante la sesión conjunta, cada abogado presenta su caso, y de ahí les permito sus refutaciones respectivas.   De ahí, por lo general vamos a sesiones privadas donde cada parte va a una habitación diferente, y yo hablo con cada parte y su abogado de manera privada.     Es ahí cuando quiero que el cliente hable más abierta y libremente, para así poder hacer un mejor trabajo como mediadora y tartar de encontrar una mejor resolución.

Los Beneficios De Mediar Así No Se Llegue A Un Acuerdo

En los casos en que se participa en una mediación temprana, Alvarez considera que aun así hay muchos beneficios de participar en la misma. Ella cree que en casos que conllevan asuntos delicados o complicados, como lo son los casos de acoso sexual, “si se tratan estos asuntos antes de que la animosidad entre las partes llegue al punto de que las mismas se odien, se puede salvar la relación empleador-empleado si se llega a un entendimiento y las partes sienten que sus preocupaciones han sido tomadas en cuenta, y sienten que tienen el control de cómo pasarán las cosas, en vez de que una tercera persona tome una decisión por ellos, la cual quizás no sea la decisión que ellos en verdad querían.”

Alvarez cree que si el mediador hace un buen trabajo, cada parte saldrá de la mediación

descontenta porque una de las partes pagó más de lo que estimaba pagar y la otra recibió menos de lo que estimada obtener, pero el acuerdo lleva a las partes a un punto en el que pueden vivir con el resultado y tienen control sobre el mismo. Independientemente de que lleguen a un acuedo, la mediación es beneficiosa.”

Alvarez agrega: “sales de la mediación con más información de la que tenías antes de entrar, especialmente si los abogados hacen un buen trabajo durante la sesión conjunta,” pues cada parte podrá esuchar las debilidades de sus respectivos casos.

Si usted ha presentado cargos con el EEOC y está considerando participar en una mediación, usted debe hablar con un abogado sobre sus derechos y considerar contratar a un abogado que lo  represente durante la mediación, conferencia de acuerdo, o conferencia conciliatoria.  Si usted ha experimentado acoso sexual o discriminación, un abogado podrá ayudarlo a conocer más sobre sus derechos y a prepararse para la mediación.

An Interview with Mediator Ilida Alvarez

After you file a charge with the EEOC, the EEOC will usually ask both you and the employer to take part in their mediation program. If you and the employer both agree to mediate, then a mediation will be scheduled so that a mediator can try to help you reach a settlement. For most people, mediation seems like an intimidating process because you don’t normally mediate unless you have a divorce or are involved in some type of legal case. The mediator is a neutral party who is trained to help facilitate the negotiation of a settlement between the parties. To shed some light on the mediation process and the benefits of mediation, I asked a mediator, Ilida Alvarez, to share her thoughts on mediation and explain the process in more detail.

Preparing for Mediation

Before you go into mediation, it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare. Ms. Alvarez recommends that parties both with and without a lawyer prepare in a similar manner by thinking about “what they want versus what they need to settle.” Ms. Alvarez also recommends that the personalities of all involved should be considered when selecting the mediator. “Sometimes, whether the mediator is male or female can make a difference and sometimes age can make a difference. Other times, you want a mediator that will push, be stern, and not as friendly, depending on the client’s personality.”

Ms. Alvarez explains that when you have an attorney, the client doesn’t see the prep work that takes place before the mediation, such as the pre-mediation statement that attorneys often provide to let her know about the facts of the case. As for the actual mediation, Ms. Alvarez explains:

Mediator Ilida Alvarez

“We go in almost always starting in a joint session with all the parties present. I’ll sit at the head of the table with the plaintiff’s attorney and the plaintiff on one side and the defendant’s attorney and the defendant on the other side. I will give a short presentation with an explanation on what to expect in the mediation, such as confidentiality and the fact that everything that they tell me during a private session is also private and confidential unless they tell me otherwise. Then I explain what I’m looking for from them in a mediation. During the joint session, each attorney gives their opening statement, and I allow for rebuttals. Then we usually go into a private session where we split into different rooms and I speak privately with each side and their attorney. That’s when I want the client to be able to speak more openly and freely so I can do a better job as a mediator and try to find a better resolution.”

The Benefits of Mediation Even if You Don’t Settle

In cases that mediate early on, Ms. Alvarez believes there are still many benefits to mediation. She believes that in cases involving sensitive or complicated issues such as sexual harassment, “if you can address the issues before the animosity gets to the point where the parties hate each other, you can salvage the employer-employee relationship if you get to an understanding, feel like your concerns have been addressed, and you have a hand in how that happens as opposed to having a 3rd party make that decision for you, which may not be what you really wanted.”

Ms. Alvarez believes that if the mediator does a good job,

both sides will leave unhappy because one side will pay more than they wanted to and the other side will accept less than they wanted to, but that gets us to a point where both parties can live with the result and they have a hand in the result.”

Regardless of whether you settle, mediation is beneficial. She says, “you walk out of mediation with more information than you had going in, especially if the attorneys do a good job during joint session” because each side hears the weaknesses in their case.

If you filed a charge with the EEOC and are considering mediation, you should discuss your rights with an attorney and think about having an attorney represent you at the mediation, settlement conference, or conciliation conference. If you have experienced sexual harassment or discrimination, an attorney can also help you learn more about your rights and how to prepare for mediation.

Una entrevista con Carmen Arce.

Mientras el mundo escucha las denuncias de acoso sexual en Hollywood, las voces de las mujeres inmigrantes y sus experiencias con relación a este tema no han estado al frente de la controversia. Las mujeres inmigrantes que han hablado de este tema lo han hecho corriendo un gran riesgo personal, a pesar de que sus casos son mucho más comunes que los de las actrices de Hollywood.  Decidí adentrarme en este tema y me senté a conversar con Carmen Arce, fundadora de Arce Immigration Law, P.A., en Miami, Florida.  Carmen Arce es una abogada certificada por el Florida Bar como una experta en leyes de inmigración y representa a individuos, familias, empleadores, y empleados a través de los Estados Unidos y en el exterior, en todas sus necesidades de inmigración.

Las Mujeres Inmigrantes Son Especialmente Vulnerables Al Acoso Sexual

Arce cree que las mujeres inmigrantes son especialmente vulnerables al acoso sexual sin importar que sean beneficiarias de una visa de trabajo, una solicitud a través de su esposo, o que sean empleadas domésticas.  Arce ha notado que por lo menos en Miami, muchas

inmigrantes de America Latina dan por hecho que van a tener que lidiar con el acoso sexual.”

A pesar de que las mujeres inmigrantes no deben esperar ser víctimas de acoso sexual, “ellas están acostumbradas al acoso sexual en sus países de origen, y no pestañean cuando el mismo ocurre en los Estados Unidos.”

Carmen Arce

Para empeorar la situación, muchas mujeres inmigrantes no saben que hay leyes en los Estados Unidos que las protegen del acoso sexual y el abuso, inclusive cuando el abusador o la víctima no son ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos. “No creo que ellas saben sobre las leyes y tampoco creo que muchas mujeres inmigrantes tan siquira piensan que el acoso sexual es inapropiado.  No se sienten cómodas con el mismo, pero desafortunadamte están acostumbradas a esto.”  Arce cree que las mujeres inmigrantes no sólo están sujetas al acoso sexual de parte de sus empleadores, pero también de parte los clientes de sus lugares de trabajo, “lo he visto en los lugares de trabajo – lo he visto en pequeñas cafeterias y restaurantes donde los jefes o clientes se dirigen a ellas en forma degradante, pero ellas no toman como ofensa comentarios como ‘wow, te ves bien, mami.’ Yo no quiero que me digan “mami” y no creo que es muy apropiado.”

Cambios Culturales Son Necesarios En Los Lugares De Trabajo

Arce cree que las presiones culturales y sociales que hacen ver al acoso sexual como algo aparentemente acepado por la cultura cambia con las “noticias más recientes que hablan de este tema y de que esto no está bien, con más mujeres defendiéndose a sí mismas, y más hombres defendiendo a las mujeres en sus respectivos lugares de trabajo diciéndose ‘hey, eso no es correcto – no vamos a sexualizar a nuestras empleadas.” Como la empleadora que es, Arce pone el ejemplo en su firma y dice que en una firma pequeña, “uno establece las reglas dando el ejemplo.” Arce no “dudaría en hablar con alguno de sus empleados” si ella llegara a ver o a eschuchar algo inapropiado. Arce tiene la razón – la Comisión de Igualdad de Oportunidades de Empleo (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) en Ingles) dice que la “base de una estrategia de prevención en contra del acoso sexual es el compromiso consistente y demostrado de los líderes de la compañía en crear y mantener una cultura de cero tolerancia al acoso sexual.”  Como muchos empleadores no van a correr sus negocios como lo hace Arce, los trabajadores inmigrantes pueden conseguir ayuda del EEOC.    En un caso reciente, el EEOC llegó un acuerdo de $582,000 a favor de ocho inmigrantes de México y Centro América que fueron físicamente y verbalmente abusados sexualmente por un gerente de una lavandería en la ciudad de Suffolk, Virginia.

Que Pueden Hacer Las Mujeres Inmigrantes Si Sufren Abuso Sexual En El Trabajo?

Los inmigrantes están protegidos del acoso sexual y la discriminación laboral por leyes federales y estatales de derechos civiles, las cuales les permiten presentar cargos por abuso sexual y discriminación de género y origen. En un caso reciente, el EEOC obtuvo de manera éxitosa la autoridad de emitir un citatorio para un empleador en un caso de discriminación presentado por un trabajador sin documentos. Las Mujeres inmigrantes también deben de conversar con sus abogados sobre la Visa U, la cual es una visa especial para víctimas de ciertos tipos de crímenes que cooperan con las autoridades. Si usted o alguien que usted conoce ha expermientado acoso sexual en su lugar de trabajo, es importunate que consulte con un abogado sobre sus derechos.

An Interview with Immigration Attorney Carmen Arce

As the world hears about sexual harassment in Hollywood, the voices of immigrant women and their experiences have not been at the forefront of the discussion. Immigrant women who have come forward have done so at great personal risk, but their experiences may be more common than those of Hollywood actresses. I decided to look into this and sat down with Carmen Arce, the founder of Arce Immigration Law, P.A. in Miami, Florida. Ms. Arce is certified as an immigration expert by The Florida Bar and represents individuals, families, employers, and employees throughout the U.S. and abroad in all their immigration matters.

Immigrant Women are Especially Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment

Ms. Arce believes immigrant women are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment regardless of whether they have an employer sponsored visa, a pending application through a spouse, or they work as a domestic employee. Ms. Arce has noticed in Miami at least, that many

Latin American immigrants almost take it for granted that they are going to have to deal with sexual harassment.”

Even though immigrant women should not have to expect it, “they are used to it in their home countries so they don’t even bat an eye about it when it happens in the U.S.”

Carmen Arce

To make matters worse, many immigrant women don’t know about laws in the U.S. that can protect them from sexual harassment and abuse, even when the abuser or victim is not a U.S. citizen. “I don’t think that they’re aware of the laws and I don’t think many immigrant women even think the harassment is inappropriate. They may not be comfortable with it, but they are used to it unfortunately.” Ms. Arce believes immigrant women are not just subject to harassment by their employers, but by customers as well, “I’ve seen it in the workplace – I’ve seen it in smaller coffee shops, restaurants, with their bosses and patrons calling them in a derogatory way, but they don’t take any offense to it saying things like ‘wow you’re looking good mami.’ I don’t want to be called mami and I don’t think it’s very appropriate.”

 

Cultural Changes Are Needed in the Workplace

Ms. Arce thinks the cultural and social pressures that make some of what appears to be cultural acceptance of harassment changes with “it being in the news that it’s not ok, more women standing up for themselves, more men standing up for women in the workplace and saying ‘hey, that’s not correct – we’re not going to sexualize our employees.’” As an employer herself, Ms. Arce sets the tone in her firm and says in a small firm, “you set the rules by your example.” Ms. Arce also “wouldn’t hesitate to talk to an employee” if she ever saw or heard something inappropriate. Ms. Arce is right – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that the “cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of senior leaders to create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.” Since many employers aren’t going to run their businesses like Ms. Arce, immigrant workers can get help from the EEOC. In one case, the EEOC secured a $582,000 settlement involving eight recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America who were physically and verbally sexually harassed by a Suffolk Laundry manager.

What Can Immigrant Women Do If They Experience Sexual Harassment at Work?

Immigrants are protected from sexual harassment and employment discrimination by federal and state civil rights laws and can file charges for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and national origin discrimination. In a recent case, the EEOC successfully obtained the authority to subpoena an employer in a discrimination case filed by an undocumented worker. Immigrant women may want to speak with their immigration attorney as well regarding the U Visa, a visa for victims of certain crimes who cooperate with law enforcement authorities. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to consult with an attorney about your legal rights.