What To Do If You Are Being Sexually Harassed
A question we receive frequently is what should someone do if they are being sexually harassed at work. Being sexually harassed is a traumatizing experience that victims often bottle up out of fear of speaking out against a superior or out of embarrassment.
There are a few general suggestions that apply to most sexual harassment situations:
- Check Your Employee Handbook: Some companies have handbooks which dictate what to do if you have been sexually harassed by a co worker or superior.
- Go to your HR department (if one exists): this seems like common sense but, more often than not, victims of sexual harassment do not go to HR. The reasons we commonly hear are “they are on the boss’s side” or “they will retaliate against me”. The reason you want to go to HR is twofold. Besides obtaining help, the HR department usually will document every complaint of sexual harassment, which creates an important employer paper trail. Conversely, their failure to respond appropriately can be used to show what an employer did or did not do in response to an instance of sexual harassment.
- Go To Your Supervisor (if there is no HR): Some companies do not have a dedicated HR department for a number of reasons. In these situations, you should immediately report sexual harassment to your immediate supervisor. If he or she is the person sexually harassing you then go over their head to the next person up. If it is the owner of the company harassing you then contacting an attorney may be your only option.
- Create Your Own Paper Trail: This step may actually be the most crucial in response to sexualharassment. Any conversations you have with HR or your superiors should immediately be followed up with a writing; either in hard copy or email. Keep copies of all correspondence. While verbal communication may be easier, written communication creates a trail of evidence.
- Keep a Journal: Unlike the previous suggestions, this suggestion may not be self evident, it isimportant. Your own observations may be admissible later on should the matter go to litigation. Furthermore it is helpful in refreshing your recollection and recording what exactly happened each day you were mistreated.
- See a Therapist: Seeking treatment may seem obvious, but experience shows that many people do not see a therapist. Sexual harassment is something that can severely affect a person for the rest of their life. As evidenced with the Cosby victims and many others, sexual harassment and sexual assault can have oft unseen repercussions and a licensed professional can help you cope with what you experienced. Plus, this is another important record for litigation.
The above is just a general overview of some of the actions you should consider if you’re being sexually harassed. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and counsel. Every case is different and as such it is always best to consult with an attorney who can give you the best advice and strategy for your exact situation. If you think you have been sexually harassed at work please call us today and we can help.
Sexual harassment knows no gender. The victim or perpetrator of the harassment may be a man or a woman. It can happen in the office or outside at an office holiday party. Sexual harassment comes in many forms, all of which are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal law includes protection against gender discrimination of all types. Because the sexual harassment behavior occurs due to a person’s gender, sexual harassment is categorized as gender discrimination. Additionally, New York State’s Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law. These more localized laws offer broader protections as they apply to smaller employers that may not be included under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
No one deserves to suffer through sexual harassment although you might feel extreme professional pressure to do so. Know that you do not have to go through this. There are legal protections in place that bar this kind of behavior. Tand and Associates P.C. is here to enforce your legal rights to be free from sexual harassment.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment includes a range of inappropriate behaviors. Some of which are:
- Sexist words or behavior
- Sexual bribery, coercion, or intimidation
- Sexual joking
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Unwelcome touching
- Sexual favor requests
Harassment can include other kinds of verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature. This can include inappropriate communications via text message or email.
As previously stated, the victim or perpetrator of the sexual harassment can be a man or a woman. The victim does not need to be of the opposite sex than the perpetrator. While the perpetrator of the harassment is commonly a supervisor or a person holding some level of authority over the victim, the perpetrator can be a co-worker or an agent of the employer.
Sexual harassment claims are dealt with by the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC files sexual harassment into two main categories. The first category, and most common sexual harassment situation, is the “hostile work environment.” This arises when the unwelcome verbal or physical actions of someone rises to such an unreasonable level as to make it difficult for the victim to do his or her job and creates a hostile work environment.
The other EEOC category of sexual harassment is “quid pro quo.” This occurs when employment decisions hinge on being complicit with unwelcome sexual conduct. In other words, if you have to perform sexual favors or respond favorably to unwanted sexual advantages in order to receive a promotion or avoid demotion or being fired, this would be “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.
Defending Sexual Harassment Victims.
You do not need to suffer through a hostile work environment created by sexual harassment. There are legal remedies available to you and Tand and Associates is here to help you enforce them.