Sexual assault can leave lasting physical, emotional, and psychological scars on victims—it instills fear in those it impacts. As a result, victims may feel hesitant or frightened to report incidents of sexual misconduct.
While fear or hesitation is understandable, it’s important to understand when your report may no longer hold legal weight. Knowledge is power, and to help you make confident decisions, let’s look into what you need to know about the federal statute of limitations for sexual harassment.
It is typically the timeframe within which a victim can file a legal claim against their alleged harasser. Under U.S. federal law, specifically under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an individual has 180 calendar days from the day the harassment occurs to file a charge. The individual must file these charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In states with an agency that enforces laws like Title VII, the filing deadline is 300 calendar days from the date of the harassment. It’s crucial to understand that these laws strictly enforce these deadlines, and missing them often means losing the right to pursue a case under federal law.
The federal statute of limitations for sexual harassment operates on a “last incident” rule. This rule means the clock for the filing deadline starts ticking from the date of the last incident of harassment. For example, the deadline extends with each new occurrence of harassment if a victim continues to experience it. However, an individual cannot include past incidents outside the statute of limitations in their claim. They can only claim incidents that occurred within the legal timeframe.
It’s understandable that you may be afraid to speak out if you find yourself a victim of sexual harassment, but you must act promptly if you can.
Your first task is to document each incident in detail, including dates, locations, what was said or done, and whether there were any witnesses. You should also inform your employer or HR department about the incidents if you feel safe doing so. Most organizations have procedures for reporting and dealing with sexual harassment and must investigate your claims.
Remember, retaliation against an individual for reporting sexual harassment is against the law. Therefore, you should not fear losing your job or facing any form of backlash for speaking up about harassment. Report any retaliation you experience to your lawyer immediately if applicable.
Before making any legal moves, it’s important to consult a professional. Laws surrounding sexual harassment can be complex, but a sexual misconduct lawyer can guide you through these steps with care and respect. They can also help you better understand the statute of limitations and help you file a timely claim.
Taking these steps can be daunting, but it’s crucial to stand up against harassment. You have the right to feel safe.