Rhode Island Workplace Sexual Harassment

If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment in Rhode Island, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation from your employer who has broken either state or federal law, or both, by failing to protect you from workplace harassment.

Sexually harassment typically means a person has made unwelcome sexual advances, demanded sexual favors, and has used any other physical or verbal harassment which is deemed to be sexual.

It is also unlawful to harass any woman in the workplace by using offensive comments which refer to women in general. Additionally, both the victim of the workplace sexual harassment and the harasser may be either a man or a woman of the same sex.

 What Rhode Island State Laws Protect Against Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination which breaches federal legislation enshrined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 It is also covered by Rhode Island’s own anti discrimination and harassment legislation, which is Rhode Island General Law 28-5-7. This legislation is overseen by the state’s anti-discrimination agency, the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission (RIHRC).

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Under both state and federal law, sexual harassment may be considered as any one or a combination of the following:

  • visual, audio and /or  written sexual conduct;
  • the use of crude, vulgar and sexist language;
  • making unwanted sexual advances;
  • demanding sexual favors;
  • any use of words that are considered to be of a sexual nature;
  • any physical conduct that is deemed to be sexual in nature.

How Sexual Harassment Is Covered by Law in Rhode Island

Rhode Island General Law 28-5-7 specifically prohibits all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including sex discrimination. It also covers complaints of sexual harassment that have taken place in the workplace. You have to file a complaint with the RIHRC within 180 days of the alleged act of sexual harassment.

What Employers are Covered by Sexual Harassment Laws?

All employers are covered by both state and federal laws on sexual harassment. Basically, employers must ensure that complaints of sexual harassment are followed up and dealt with or face fines or other penalties imposed on them by the RIHCR, the EEOC or both. Generally, the EEOC only deals with employers who employ 15 or more employees, while the RIHCR will consider complaints made by smaller employers as well.

Where to File a Workplace Sexual Harassment Claim in Rhode Island?

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in Rhode Island you can file a claim of harassment through the federal agency which is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) or Rhode Island’s own state agency, the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.

There is only one RICHR office in the state, which is in Providence.

  • Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights
  • 180 Westminster Street, 3rd Floor
  • Providence, RI 02903
  • Phone: 401-222-2661
  • TTY: 401-222-2664
  • Fax: 401-222-2616

To contact the EEOC, note that the nearest office that can handle a claim is in Boston. Because of work share agreement, it may be easier to contact the RIHCR office first, even if you work in a workplace of more than 14 employees.

This is the address of the nearest EEOC office:

EEOC's Boston Area Local Office

  • 475 Government Center 
  • Boston, MA 02203
  • Phone: 1-800-669-4000 
  • TTY 1-800-669-6820

How Long Do I Have to File a Sexual Harassment Claim in Rhode Island?

Under Rhode Island state law you have one year to file a complaint of sexual harassment in the workplace. The federal statute of limitations is 180 days from the incident of sexual harassment, but this may be extended to 300 days.

It is recommended that you file your complaint as soon as you can but only after you have attempted to get the harassment complaint addressed by your employer, e.g. through your HR department or equivalent.

Evidence of sexual harassment and an uncooperative response by your employer will help your claim with either the RIHCR or EEOC.

Before filing any Rhode Island workplace sexual harassment claims you should seek help from a lawyer first who will ensure you have the right evidence to support your claim.


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