Sexual harassment in the workplace is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence. Many men and women experience discrimination, harassment and even assault in the workplace. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, remember that you don’t have to stay quiet. There are resources and ways to stand up for yourself.
In 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported 7,500 sexual harassment claims. However, we know that only a fraction of actual incidents are reported. If you have or are currently experiencing sexual harassment at your workplace, here are some steps you can take:
- Document quid pro quo – Quid pro quo sexual harassment is explicit of implicit conditions for a job or advancement offer. Take notes on the conversation, date, time and place.
- Write down elements of a hostile environment – A hostile environment is when you experience harassment due to your gender, including comments about your gender as a whole, sexual comments or receiving treatment different than others because of your gender. Watch how the party in question treats others of your gender and document the incidents.
- Keep your notes safe – Make sure to keep your documentation of sexual harassment in a safe place. Keep them on your person or in your home rather than at work.
- Keep all evidence – Make copies of any texts, cards, emails or other communications with your harasser. Screenshot and print out electronic exchanges and keep them in a safe place with your notes.
- Report at work – The Supreme Court ruled that you must report sexual harassment at work to your company before you are able to sue so that they have an opportunity to handle the situation. Look at your company’s sexual harassment policy and report your situation to the correct person, typically your employer, supervisor or H.R. representative. It’s best to report in writing and keep a copy.
- Watch for retaliation – After filing your complaint with your company, pay attention to the actions of your harasser. If the behavior persists or there is any sort of retaliation, report it.
- Report to the EEOC – In California, you have 300 days to file a complaint with the EEOC if your employer isn’t resolving the situation. They will contact your employer and either send the charge to mediation or investigation.
- Work with a lawyer – An experienced employment law attorney will help you walk through the situation, decide on the next steps and fight for your right to a safe working environment.
Don’t let your harasser bully you out of your job, but you also shouldn’t feel trapped in a position where you are unsafe. Your employer is legally required to provide a safe working environment, so remember that it is your right to report inappropriate behavior.