What is Discrimination?
Unlawful discrimination occurs when a person is harassed or treated arbitrarily or differently because of their membership in a "protected class." A protected class is a group of people who share common characteristics and are protected from discrimination and harassment by federal, state, and/or local laws. The Alexandria Human Rights Code recognizes the following protected classes:
- Sex or Gender (including sexual harassment)
- National Origin
- Marital Status
- Familial Status (in cases of housing discrimination only)
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Transgender Status
If you suspect you are being illegally discriminated against, contact the office at 703-746-3140, or fill out an intake form.
For more information on discrimination in the workplace, visit the EEOC’s website .
Harassment is a form of discrimination that involves unwanted and offensive conduct that is directed at you because of your race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, national origin, marital status, familial status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or transgender status.
Harassment can include:
- Slurs or epithets
- Threatening acts
- Posting of offensive materials on walls, bulletin boards, e-mail, or social media
To be considered harassment, conduct must:
- Be serious or frequent enough to create a hostile environment; and
- Interfere with your ability to work, live, or enjoy a public place
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is an illegal form of gender discrimination that consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of contexts, including housing, employment, public accommodations, health and social services, education, and credit.
Forms of Sexual Harassment
There are generally two different theories of proving sexual harassment:
Quid Pro Quo
Occurs when the victim's status, benefits or opportunities with regard to employment, housing, education, etc. are explicitly or implicitly conditioned upon the victim submitting to the harasser's sexual advances, either by engaging in sexual activity or tolerating other conduct of a sexual nature.
Occurs when someone's behavior (a fellow co-worker, a supervisor, non-employee, housing provider, etc.) is sexual in nature and is perceived as offensive and undesirable. This type of sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. With these types of claims, the behavior must:
- Be unwelcome
- Be gender-based (but the harasser does not have to be of the opposite sex)
- Be "severe or pervasive"
- Unreasonably affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment, housing, education, etc.
Is it Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment comes in many forms, such as:
- Suggestive comments about your appearance
- Unwanted touching or other physical contact
- Unwelcome sexual jokes or comments
- Exposure to sexually explicit or inappropriate pictures, videos, emails, websites, or social media
Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Employers, managers, and employees all play a vital part in preventing and addressing sexual harassment. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should:
- Clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated
- Take all complaints about harassment seriously
- Take immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains
- Investigate complaints thoroughly
- Train supervisors and employees about sexual harassment
- Ensure that supervisors report complaints and incidents of sexual harassment to proper company authorities
- Discipline supervisors and employees who violate the policy
- Keep thorough records
- Check up with employees who complain about harassment to make sure the harassment has stopped
- Conduct exit interviews to uncover hidden sexual harassment
It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser (or the harasser's supervisor) that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. If the behavior continues, write a memo addressed to the harasser requesting that he or she stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.
How is Sexual Harassment Proven?
As with other forms of discrimination, the Complainant bears the burden of proving sexual harassment. When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the Office looks at the whole record, and will make a determination based on the evidence obtained. Considerations include:
- The nature and frequency of the sexual advances
- The context in which the alleged incidents occurred
- The extent to which the harasser was told, or knew, that the advances were unwelcome
- The effect that the harassing behavior had on the Complainant's work and mental/physical/emotional well-being
- Whether the Respondent was aware, or should have been aware, that the harassment was happening
- Whether efforts were made to correct the harassment
You should contact a Human Rights Investigator if you suspect sexual harassment.
Resources for Sexual Assault
In the most serious cases, sexual harassment can lead to sexual assault. We want to ensure that victims of sexual harassment and assault seek, and are provided with, adequate support. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, the City has several resources available through:
- The Alexandria Police Department 703-838-4444 (non-emergency) or 911 (emergency).
- The Department of Community & Human Services has a Sexual Assault Center with 24-hour crisis intervention and support available (24-hour hotline at 703-683-7273 (voice/TTY)). All Sexual Assault Center services are strictly confidential.
Areas of Enforcement
- Harassment (scroll down for more information)
- Disability and religious accommodations
- Other terms & conditions of employment
- Sale or rental of housing
- Disability accommodations or modifications
- Loans for the purchase, building, renovation, or repair of housing
Provision and use of goods and services
Access to and enjoyment of facilities and other privileges
Includes places like restaurants, hotels, retail stores, gyms and theaters
Health and Social Services
Access to services, programs, benefits, facilities and other privileges
Terms, conditions, facilities, and other benefits
Provision, denial, or termination of credit-related services
It is illegal for an employer, housing provider, or other entity covered by the Alexandria Code to take an adverse action against you for:
Filing a discrimination complaint;
Objecting to a discriminatory practice; or
Participating in an investigation of discrimination