Aggressive Advocates For Your Rights

What Should I Do About Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

There's no reason anyone should be subjected to sexual harassment. It's a sick exercise of dominance, or attempted dominance, over another person. Employees should focus on their work, improving themselves and their employer. There's no place for sexual harassment in a workplace. Unfortunately it happens all the time.

Under federal law sexual harassment,

● Is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment,

● Need not be of a sexual nature but it can include offensive remarks about a person's sex,

● Can involve people of the same sex and the harasser could be a female and the victim a male,

● Doesn't include teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are not very serious,

● Is illegal if it's so frequent or severe it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

● Can involve the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, contractor, a client or customer.

If you're being sexually harassed,

● Document the instances of harassment. Write down what happened, when, what was said and done by the two of you, the names of any witnesses and whether, to your knowledge, the area is covered by security cameras. If the harassment includes text messages or emails, keep copies.

● You should tell your harasser to stop. This is easy advice to give but can be difficult to do in real life. The reality is that the harasser's words and acts need to be unwelcome to be illegal. Without some kind objection the harasser may claim you're a willing participant.

● Report the harassment. This is usually the hardest part because you do not want to be viewed as difficult or a trouble-maker. If you trust your supervisor then start with him/her but they should immediately follow-up and help you through next steps reporting to Human Resources. If your boss is not a good choice you could go to personnel yourself or find a more highly placed woman in the company to confide in and guide you.

● Look at your employee handbook. There should be a section on sexual harassment and how to complain about it and to whom. If you end up suing your employer without making an internal complaint they could use that against you claiming they didn't have an opportunity to correct the situation.

● If as a result of your objection to the harassment there was a tangible, adverse employment action (such as a demotion or firing), you have a reasonable fear of retaliation or management was aware of the harassment, strictly speaking you're not under a legal obligation to complain. As a practical matter you should make a complaint anyway because if you don't the employer will have additional defenses and you will have to show you had good reasons not to complain.

Sexual harassment puts the victim in a difficult situation, one we're familiar with because we help clients who have had to deal with sexual harassment. We can take steps to make it stop, make sure your legal rights are protected and possibly pursue legal action to seek compensation due to the harassment and any subsequent retaliation. Contact our office today to get the legal help you need.

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