How to Deal with Sexual Harassment at Work


Posted about 6 years ago. Applies to Wisconsin, 14 helpful votes



Recognize Harassment

Any unwelcome behavior directed at you because of your gender or sexual preferences is sexual harassment. Often victims deny the incident, downplay it or question if it really happened or it they are "at fault." If you are angry or uncomfortable about someone's words or actions that are directly or indirectly sexual, then you may be a victim of sexual harassment.


Write Everything Down

This is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself, to understand what is happening and to help your lawyer and the investigators. Keep a diary noting the who, what, where, when and how of each incident and each of your responses. Also note down the names of any witnesses and each person you discuss the situation with, including your attorney. This record will be invaluable in supporting your case or your complaint.


Tell the Harasser or the Company the Behavior Must Stop.

If you can, tell the harasser to knock it off. Be assertive. If it is not possible to speak to the harasser, then you must inform someone in authority. Employers have no obligation to protect you unless they know what is wrong. The law requires that you give notice to your employer before filing a federal or state sexual harassment complaint. You must inform your supervisor, their boss, human resources or the President of the Company. You should put your complaint in writing. You should make 2 points. First, You should say specifically who did what at what time on what day in what place. List each incident. Second, you should also say that you oppose sexual harassment at work.


What if the Harasser is the President/CEO or owns the Company?

This is a difficult situation. However, under the law, you still need to notify someone in the company. If the company has a human resources department, you can report to them. If there is a supervisor between you and the Big Boss, you can report to them. If you wish, you can discuss the situation with an attorney and have the attorney contact the company.


What if You Are Demoted or Fired?

This is another difficult situation. The good news is that if you are fired or demoted, you will have a stronger claim for unemployment insurance and sexual harassment. The bad news is that sometimes you may feel you are being asked to risk your job or even your career to protect your rights. However, if you are being sexually harassed, your job, your career and your well-being are already at risk. If you are afraid of losing your job, then this is probably a very real risk. However, if you do nothing, you may experience more harassment, suffer further mental, emotional, spiritual harm, continue to have difficulty with other relationships and still get fired. If you are in this situation, hire an attorney and find someone to talk with.


If Your Employer Does Nothing or If the Sexual Harassment Continues, File a Complaint.

Once your employer knows you are being harassed, they have a duty to investigate and stop the harassment. They will decide how to do this. You can help the investigation by giving them names of people who witnessed the harassment. If the company does not investigate or does not stop the harasser, then you must file a complaint. In Wisconsin, complaints are filed with the Equal Rights Division of the Department of Workforce Development. ERD complaints are automatically filed with the EEOC. Forms and information are available at the website listed below. You can file pro se (without a lawyer), but an attorney can be very helpful in drafting the complaint and advising you during the investigation. Some attorneys may have a reduced fee for initial interviews. Some attorneys may take your case on contingency (You pay only costs incurred, unless you win). Sexual harassment is personal and private. Choose an attorney you can respect and confide in.


Find Someone To Talk With.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you will need someone (other than your attorney) to provide emotional and spiritual support. A good attorney is a good listener, but we lawyers are better known for aggression and finding legal solutions that for emotional support, empathy and compassion. You can talk with your spouse or partner, your family and friends. However, you should consider talking with a mental health professional, a local counseling agency, rape crisis line, domestic abuse center (they handle this, too) or a religious advisor (priest, minister, rabbi, deacon, etc.). If you are feel your religious or spiritual beliefs are affected or wonder why this is happening to you, make the call.

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