Sexual harassment, whether overt or subtle, is behavior that should not be tolerated in the workplace. Many victims, however, feel powerless to speak up against these offensive actions, so they do nothing.
Instead, those who have endured harassment should realize that they have rights - particularly the right to a safe work environment. If you have been sexually harassed, there are informal and formal actions you can take to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.
The following are steps you can take if you have been a victim of workplace sexual harassment:
- Speak up to the offenders - The first step to resolving sexual harassment is to let the harassers know that their behavior is offensive and unwelcome. Depending on the circumstances, the offender may not realize their behavior made you uncomfortable and will stop.
- Follow reporting procedure from your employer - If harassment does not stop or the offender is not receptive to resolving the issue, the next step is to notify your employer. Many companies have specific reporting procedures, which need to be followed correctly. If your employer does not have a procedure, report the incident to a manager or supervisor who is not involved in the incident.
- File an administrative charge - If the sexual harassment incident cannot be resolved internally, the next step is the file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will attempt to resolve the issue through negotiation with your employer. If they cannot resolve your complaint, but feel it is valid, the EEOC will issue a Notice of Right To Sue. This notice gives you 90 days to file a civil lawsuit in court.
- File a lawsuit - A civil lawsuit can be filed for damages you have suffered as a result of the sexual harassment. Depending on your situation, damages you collect can include reinstatement if you lost your job, back pay and compensation for emotional distress.
At any point in this process, you have the right to consult with an employment law attorney about your situation. They can provide you with advice, guidance, advocacy and representation in court.