5 Things You Must Do if You Are Being Sexually Harassed at Work
Is your boss or co-worker is a creep? Is sexual harassment at work making it harder to do your job? If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, here are 5 things you MUST do to stop the harassment, preserve your legal claim, and get help.
Tell the harasser to STOP!To be illegal, sexual harassment must be unwelcome or offensive. In other words, it’s not “harassment” if it doesn’t bother you. Therefore, to show that the harassment bothers you and is unwelcome, CLEARLY TELL THE HARASSER TO STOP! Even better, tell the harasser to stop in writing.
For example, if you have the harasser’s cell phone number or email address, you can send him or her a text or email. If you can’t tell the harasser to stop in writing, then tell him or her verbally. However, make sure you record the date, time, and place you verbally told the harasser to stop. In any event, always make it clear to the harasser that his or her conduct is unwelcome and unacceptable.
Report the harassment IN WRITING!In most cases, your employer violates the law only when it knows or should know you are being sexually harassed and fails to stop it. Your employer cannot be held liable for harassment it does not know about. Therefore, in almost all cases, the law requires you to report the harassment to your employer.
In many cases, your employee handbook will tell you what steps to take if you are being sexually harassed at work. Many times, the employee handbook will tell you to report the harassment to your supervisor. However, if your supervisor is the harasser, you should report to his or her supervisor directly. If that isn’t possible, report the harassment to a Human Resources official. Always follow the procedure in your employee handbook as closely as possible.
If you never received an employee handbook, ask a Human Resources official how to file a sexual harassment report. If your company is very small, make the report to one of the owners or managers. In many small companies, owners also manage the business. In the case where a small business owner is the harasser, contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer or the EEOC directly.
Regardless of to whom you report, ALWAYS REPORT THE HARASSMENT IN WRITING! If you can, report in writing the first time. If you made a verbal report first, follow up with a written report as soon as possible. This cannot be stressed enough. It is far easier to prove that your employer had notice of the harassment if you report it in writing.
Also make sure to include ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION in your report. For example, your report should include at least the following:
(1) The name(s) of the harasser(s);
(2) The date(s) and location(s) of the harassment; and
(3) The names of any witnesses.
KEEP TRACK of all harassment!Generally, sexual harassment is illegal only if it is severe or pervasive. That means the sexual harassment must be extreme, widespread, or frequent. If you are claiming one or two instances of severely harassing conduct, you should write down the dates, times, and locations of the harassment. You should also take note of who was present. You should do the same thing to keep track of harassment that is less severe, but happens more often.
Perhaps most importantly, save every harassing text message, photo, or voicemail. Don’t delete anything! The more incidents of harassment you are able to prove, the more likely you will win your case. Keeping a journal or diary of the harassing conduct will help you do this. All of this evidence will strengthen your sexual harassment case.
COOPERATE with Human Resources!Once you complain about sexual harassment, your Human Resources department or manager will usually get involved. They may ask you to answer questions or provide information about the harassment to help them in their investigation. Importantly, always answer their questions honestly and provide the information they request.
Seek HELP!Sexual harassment at work can be traumatizing. Unfortunately, it can also increase your risk for mental or emotional illnesses. Some examples include:
post-traumatic stress disorder
low self-esteem or self-confidence
poor psychological well-being
If you are feeling anxious or depressed because of sexual harassment at work, contact a therapist or professional counselor immediately. In addition, there are numerous Pennsylvania groups and organizations ready to help victims of sexual harassment. For instance, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape offers various forms of assistance to victims of workplace sexual harassment. Further, the YWCA has programs that provide comprehensive services to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The YWCA also has a 24-hour crisis hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-654-1211.