Reporting Sexual Harassment: What to Do If You Are Harassed at Work
If you are being sexually harassed at work, you do have rights. Learn more here about what to do and procedures for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.
Being made to feel uncomfortable, singled out or left behind for advancement or bonuses due to race, gender, or religious beliefs can be considered harassment. This creates a hostile work environment and it affects everyone who works there.
The term ‘sexual harassment’ might have wide and varying meaning to many people, but it’s what it means to you that matters. it also doesn’t matter where it comes from, whether it’s a boss or your subordinate, it’s illegal.
If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment at work, there are steps to take in reporting sexual harassment. Here are the best ways to handle the situation.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment isn’t just inappropriate advances or comments. The laws for sexual harassment in the workplace cast a wide net. It can include:
- posters, calendars or other pictures on display
- salacious or sexual emails, memes or videoes
- lewd jokes of sexual nature
- sexual gestures to indicate sex or masturbation
- comments about someone’s appearance, clothing or parts of their body
- asking questions about their sex life
- inappropriate touching; anything that makes you uncomfortable
- unsolicited requests for dates or sexual favors
- any comments made about gender, sexual orientation or gender identity
Anything deemed inappropriate of a sexual nature, whether overt or suggested that make the person uncomfortable and interfere with their ability to complete their work is sexual harassment.
Even if the comments or actions are not directed at you and you are still made uncomfortable, that classifies, as well. Standing too close, ogling or staring, brushing up against someone, anything that affects the people in the workplace.
Reporting Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment must be reported. If it’s happened once, then it’s happened before and will continue to do so. Even if it isn’t happening to you, it’s important to speak up.
If you are the victim of sexual harassment or a witness to it, you must report it. Even if it isn’t directed at you, if you witness it, report it. The person it is happening to may be too frightened or too timid to come forward.
Confront Your Harasser
Say something to the person who is behaving inappropriately. Don’t worry about being rude. Chances are, this person has been getting away with this behavior before.
Say it in front of other people, if possible. That way you are making others aware it is happening. There may be more people willing to come forward. Tell them what they did is inappropriate and you are going to the authorities.
Tell Your Boss
Go to your immediate supervisor and make a report of everything that happened. Let them know exactly what happened. If they don’t see a problem, go to the next level of authority until someone listens.
You should also make your own report for your records. Detail exactly what happened and get others who witnessed the incident to back you up. Be as detailed as possible.
Check Workplace Procedure
Be sure to follow the guidelines set out in the employees manual or company policies handbook. Following this closely will benefit you if you decide to continue with a case.
If there are no policies in place, check with your state or government policies on how to proceed.
If it is serious enough or you are not getting any results from your workplace, file an official police report. This will also give you documented proof if you need to take the case further.
You can get advice on what to do next with the police, plus, the person may already have a record of this type of behavior, which will be helpful for you if charges are laid.
Call a Lawyer
Calling a lawyer is just sound advice. Even if you decide not to proceed with charges, at least you can get advice. Find a lawyer that specializes in sexual harassment cases, and get advice on how you should proceed.
Get advice on what will happen if you do proceed with pressing charges. There will be a lot involved, so be sure to ask as many questions as possible, so you know where you stand.
Seek Medical Attention
For more severe cases or cases of sexual assault, you must visit a medical professional. Even if there was no physical abuse, you can suffer from mental stress and exhaustion.
It’s important to take care of yourself in these situations and not get overwhelmed. Take some time off, if you need to and find a way to relax and not worry too much. You can take a yoga class or start meditation, to help cope with the stress and anxiety you are experiencing.
The person responsible for harassing you or your co-worker will not be happy. There may be allies on his side, as well. If any of them say anything about the case, threaten you or even suggest you are making a mistake, report it immediately.
Keep detailed notes for your own records and stick to your convictions. Bullies continue to bully because they can. Don’t allow that behavior to continue. Get all witnesses to keep reports for you, as well.
Don’t take to social media as an outlet. This can back to hurt you and then the bad guy wins. Talk to your friends or a professional about what you are experiencing and leave the rest to the people who know.
No Means No
It’s your fundamental right to work in a hassle-free environment, where you are allowed to grow, make mistakes, learn and prosper. Don’t let anyone take that away from you or someone else you work with.
It doesn’t matter where you work, it doesn’t matter who is being harassed and where it is coming from. It’s always wrong and it must be stopped. Reporting sexual harassment is a right and a privilege.
Knowing your rights at work can stop a lot of unwanted problems from co-workers, bosses and anyone else who pushes their luck.
If you need any more information on succeeding at work, starting your own business or motivational tips, please continue reading here.