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Sexual harassment and employer liability

As a victim of sexual harassment at your workplace, you understand that it's your responsibility to protect your legal rights. You can't sit back and hope that your company does the right thing, as this doesn't always happen.

Any employer with at least 15 employees is subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees.

If your company has fewer than 15 employees, state laws come into play.

The first thing you should do after an instance of sexual harassment is to tell the person to stop. Let them know that they crossed the line, and you're not going to stand for it again. This is often enough to bring an end to the problem, as the harasser will not want to deal with the consequences.

Secondly, report the behavior to your human resources department or company owner, making it clear that you want them to file a report and make a formal note of the behavior.

Depending on the circumstances, your employer may be liable for monetary loss, pain and suffering and punitive damages. Liability is based largely on who committed the harassment and the steps your company took in the aftermath.

For example, if a supervisor took action against you, such as by terminating your employment, your employer is liable.

You have legal rights as an employee, so you should always stand up for yourself if you're the victim of sexual harassment. Not only does this protect you on a personal level, but it may also put you in a position to receive compensation from your employer.

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