ALLIANCE AGAINST SEXUAL COERCION
P.O. BOX 1
CAMBRIDGE, MA 02139
June 6, 1980
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
2401 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20506
To the Commission:
The Alliance Against Sexual Coercion is supportive of the EEOC's action in issuing guidelines on sexual harassment and pleased to have the opportunity to comment on them.
Since its founding in 1976, the purpose of the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion (AASC) has been to counteract the sexual harassment of women at work and in school. To alleviate the problem of sexual harassment, AASC performs public educational outreach, provides services to individual women who have been harassed, and offers training and consultation to workplaces, schools, unions, community and human service agencies, and regulatory agencies wanting to address the issue, both locally and nationally. Services to women who have been harassed include: crisis intervention counselling and information about options; advocacy for unemployment, EEO, and intra-workplace complaint or grievance procedures; and workplace education and safety compaigns. Nationally we provide a variety of information services; trainings for those responsible for implementing complaint grievance and other procedures for women seeking redress; and trainings for groups organizing services. AASC also publishes and makes available basic informational pamphlets and handbooks.
We have had the opportunity to review comments prepared by Working Women's Institute and concur with their specific proposals for strengthening the guidelines. We would like to comment on one additional area of concern to us.
In our experience, women of any race, national origin, religion, age, sexual preference or marital status, may be subjected to sexual harassment. Although sexual harassment may be directed at any woman, it may at times be used as a tool to discriminate against a woman not because of her sex but because of her race, age, etc. In particular, we have assisted Black women harassed by white male supervisors, a number of whom have articulated and documented their belief that the harassment (comments about their sexuality, sexual jokes, demands for sexual favors, etc.) was a form of race discrimination. It was designed either to (1) keep them as black women in unequal positions to white in the workplace, or (2) encourage them to quit their jobs because as black women they were not wanted in the workplace. Or, the harassment was directed at them rather than at white women because of myths and other discriminatory practices which made them seem to be more vulnerable targets.
Two of the Black women we assisted, and two others about whom we have heard indirectly, filed Title VII race discrimination complaints through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. To our knowledge, there were no "probable cause" findings in any of these cases. In fact, women have expressed to us that they have been discouraged from filing race discrimination complaints because of prevailing attitudes, media presentations of the issue, and the history of complaints of sexual harassment being filed as Title VII sex discrimination suits.
Although the guidelines do not rule out filing a race discrimination complaints on the basis of sexual harassment, or a joint race and sex discrimination complaint, we believe that the possibility of doing so should be clearly stated in the guidelines. The footnote #1 to the guidelines does not clearly sepcify such a possibility. It is difficult for anyone who is not a lawyer to interpret the meaning of this note, and many women filing under Title VII do not consult with a lawyer. Therefore, Black women will assume that filing a race discimination complaint is not an option. The possibility of filing complaints of race (or other relevant categories, particularly national origin) for sexual harassment must be clearly stated.
We suggest the following additional Section 1604.11 (f): Defining harassment on the basis of sex as a violation of Sec. 703 of Title VII should not be interpreted to mean that women filing complaints of sexual harassment are limited to filing complaints of sex discrimination. They may file complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin, due to acts of sexual harassment as well as complaints of sex discrimination.
for the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion
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