It’s estimated that about 75% of people who experience workplace harassment fail to bring it up with a manager, supervisor, or union representative.
One reason for this is that employees are afraid they’ll be retaliated against at work.
But another reason many cases go unreported is that employees subjected to inappropriate behavior aren’t clear when it crosses the line into illegal sexual harassment.
Today sexual harassment can take on more subtle forms.
Instead of being propositioned for sexual favors or inappropriately touched, you might receive suggestive late-night texts, unsolicited images, or unwelcome sexually-charged comments.
These forms of sexual harassment can happen through emails, social media, or other venues outside of the office.
But knowing you’re being sexually harassed is just a tiny part of the battle.
Knowing what to do if you’re being harassed is even more important.
In the article below, we will discuss what you can do if you’re being sexually harassed at work.
What’s Workplace Sexual Harassment?
There are two types of sexual harassment at work.
The first type is called “hostile work environment” sexual harassment.
Hostile work environment sexual harassment can take many forms, including:
- unwelcome, sexually suggestive, or demeaning comments
- repeated and unwelcome requests for dates
- requests for sexual favors
- offensive gestures
- offensive touching
- sexual jokes or pranks
- intimidating behaviors
- sharing pornographic materials
The harassment must occur often enough to affect your ability to do your job well.
Or, it could happen just once if the level of harassment is so bad that it affects your ability to do your job well.
To hold your employer responsible, you have to show that your employer is liable for the harassment, either directly or indirectly.
For example, if a co-worker or frequent customer makes offensive remarks, you have to prove that your workplace is responsible for allowing their bad behavior.
Hostile workplace harassment also occurs if your employer discriminates against you because of your gender identity.
This discrimination could occur in the hiring procedures, the hours you work, your wages, lack of promotions, work schedules, work assignments, vacation or sick leave benefits, and termination.
The second type of workplace sexual harassment is called “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or other manager demands sexual contact from you in return for employment benefits or promotions.
Even if you didn’t say no, it could still be sexual harassment.
If you feel pressured to have sexual contact because you were afraid you would lose your job or be punished at work, your sexual contact could have been a form of illegal harassment.
What To Do If You’re Being Sexually Harassed At Work
Keep Records Of The Sexual Harassment
If you decide to file a sexual harassment claim, you will need to have detailed records of the times you felt harassed and the types of harassment you have experienced.
Sometimes sexual harassment is seen as he said/she said situation.
However, if you have carefully recorded several instances of harassment with the dates, time of day, witnesses, and how the incidents made them feel, you will have a much stronger case.
Write down every instance of harassment, including the names of everyone around at the time.
Don’t keep these on your work computer in case you lose access for any reason.
You may ultimately have to show that conduct was frequent or severe, and documenting each incident of harassment is the best way to do that.
Evaluate Your Company’s Climate
Sexual harassment victims should approach the situation carefully before filing an internal complaint.
There’s no sure-fire way to successfully report harassment because it depends on the organization’s climate and how seriously the supervisors and managers are going to take it.
Figure out if this kind of behavior is common in your workplace.
Ask yourself if your supervisors or human resources staff would be upset by what has happened.
Will an investigation into your complaint be thorough? Do they take the sexual harassment policy seriously?
Depending on your answers to these questions, you might feel comfortable moving ahead with making a report.
However, some victims often feel better finding another way to report the harassment or exit the workplace altogether.
Ask The Harasser To Stop
This can be done verbally or in writing.
It’s better to ask in writing to have copies of it for proof later on.
If you want to do it verbally, ask a trusted co-worker to go with you to serve as a witness.
If you aren’t comfortable talking or writing to the harasser, you still need to keep detailed notes about your interactions and experiences.
Again, keep your notes in a safe place outside of work, like in a journal, on your personal phone, or a personal email account.
Report The Sexual Harassment To Management
You also need to report the harassment to a person with decision-making power.
If your employer has workplace sexual harassment complaint procedures, learn them and follow them.
Make your complaint in writing and get a trusted witness to go with you when you make your complaint.
You will need to prove that your employer actually received your complaint and the date and time the complaint was made.
Keep a copy of your complaint for your records.
Most of the time, before an employer can be liable under discrimination laws, they have to know the harassment is occurring and have a chance to deal with the problem.
File A Complaint With A Government Agency
If you’ve experienced harassment at work and you’ve told your employer but they’ve done nothing to stop it, or they’ve retaliated against you, you can file a legal complaint with a government agency.
Discrimination complaints can be filed with your state’s anti-discrimination or civil rights agency (sometimes referred to as FEPA, or Fair Employment Practices Agency).
They can also be filed with a federal government agency, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
We’re Ready to Fight For You!
Being sexually harassed at work can be a stressful and traumatic experience.
You have to figure out a lot, and you shouldn’t try to do it alone.
If you think you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment, you should seek legal advice from a sexual harassment attorney.
The lawyers at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys have the skills and experience available to work on your sexual harassment case.
Contact the experienced Workplace Harassment Lawyers at Schuerger Shunarrah Trial Attorneys so they can review your claim.
Our lawyers do not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and believe the responsible parties should be held accountable.
Schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys today. We are here 24/7 to assist you!