How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

by tylercook on November 21, 2012

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What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can make work uncomfortable for victims. It can happen to anyone, whether male or female, and it is very common. Sexual harassment can range from bothersome comments and advances to physical touching or intimidation, or pressure to go on dates or perform sexual acts, any of which can create a hostile work environment, which violates the worker’s rights. Some people are more vulnerable to sexual harassment, such as those who are shy and unsure how to respond, and employees who are afraid of losing their job despite ongoing harassment. Many workplaces have strict policies about dating coworkers to avoid harassment or confusion, while other employers have no rules or policies in place at all.

What Should You Do if You are Sexually Harassed at Work?

One of the first steps you can take in dealing with sexual harassment is to ask the person who is committing it to stop. In some cases, the person who is harassing you may not realize that their actions are bothering you. After you have told them to cease the behavior that bothers you, there should be no excuse, and it should cease immediately. However, sometimes it may seem uncomfortable to talk to that person directly, particularly when you are working for them and concerned that disagreements could lead to retaliation. In this case, it may be helpful to talk to a human resources director or another manager at the job about the uncomfortable situation. This approach may also be a good next step if you have already told the person who is committing the harassment that it makes you feel uncomfortable but they still persist.

Keeping Your Own Records

Another measure to take when you are the victim of sexual harassment is to make a written record about everything that is going on, in case you need to make an official statement later or file a lawsuit. Be as specific as possible about dates and times, exactly what was said, and who you spoke to about the issue. You may wish to conceal this record among your personal things and keep it at home with you when you are not at work, so that it cannot be found and read by coworkers.

When to File a Lawsuit

If you have spoken about the issue to other members of the company and the behavior has not stopped, or if you believe you have suffered retaliation at your job as a result of your reporting the incidents, you may wish to consult an attorney. You have a right to be free from harassment in the workplace and to work in an environment that is not hostile. Your case is more likely to proceed to a lawsuit if the sexual harassment was particularly severe or if it resulted in job termination. If all the measures you have tried to stop sexual harassment on your own have failed, talking to a sexual harassment attorney can be a good way to enforce your legal rights and prevent further harassment from occurring to other victims. Where sexual harassment is tolerated by an employer, there is usually more than one victim. Even if you decide not to file a lawsuit, keep all the records of your employment and incidents of harassment, in case you are called to testify as a witness in another case.




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