TIME’S UP: EEOC Took Crucial First Step on Sexual Harassment during COVID Crisis, but Must Do More

Changing Laws & Policy, Federal Policy, Safety

According to press reports, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has now confirmed that it has temporarily suspended “right-to-sue notices,” a procedural hurdle that workers must clear in order to pursue claims of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment or assault. Once the EEOC issues a right-to-sue notice to a worker, that worker has only 90 days to pursue legal action — a short window in the best of circumstances, but one that is impossibly short during the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came after more than 80 worker advocates, including TIME’S UP Now, issued a letter asking for a moratorium on issuing right-to-sue letters, among other changes to ensure that workers experiencing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination are protected during this crisis.

Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Now, responded with the following statement:

“TIME’S UP supports the EEOC’s decision to temporarily cease right-to-sue notices so that workers have more time to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit in the midst of this global pandemic. This is a crucial first step towards safeguarding the rights of workers, especially those most affected by the economic upheaval we are all facing — but more action is needed. For starters, the EEOC and Congress should immediately extend the 180 day complaint filing deadline for private sector workers and the EEOC should extend the 45 day filing window for federal workers so they have more time to pursue justice.

“Women are being hit especially hard by this crisis — they make up the majority of low-wage occupations while bearing the brunt of unpaid household labor and family care. And in this time of quarantine, social distancing, and widespread closures, individuals who have experienced unlawful workplace discrimination will face insurmountable difficulties in seeking to take time-sensitive steps to protect and enforce their rights.

“With the phones still ringing at the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund and harassment and discrimination against the Asian American community increasing, it’s clear that this crisis is putting all of us — and especially some of the most vulnerable workers — in danger. As a society, we’ve made historic progress on sexual harassment and gender equity in the workplace in recent years — but we cannot lose any ground. This is a hard time, but I’m hopeful that Congress and federal agencies like the EEOC will seize the opportunity this moment presents to rebuild workplaces so they are safe, fair, and equitable for everyone.”

Read the letter to the EEOC here.


TIME’S UP™ Now is the nonpartisan and not-for-profit advocacy and political arm of TIME’S UP. We advocate for safe, fair, and dignified work for all in the public and private sectors, calling for an end to harassment and other related forms of discrimination on the job. And we fight to rebuild the systems that have taken away women’s power for far too long. TIME’S UP Now is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.