When a co-worker or supervisor goes too far with sexual advances, persistent comments or offensive behavior, you can immediately draw a line in the sand by telling the person to stop. In many cases, the offender will get the message and leave you alone. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, for some, it may even escalate the unwanted behavior.
What can you do then? Sexual harassment on the job can make your days long and stressful, fill you with anxiety and even place your future in jeopardy. However, the law protects you, and there are steps you can take to register your complaint in such a way as to improve the chances of obtaining a fair and satisfying outcome.
Taking the first step
Not all annoying or unpleasant behavior meets the legal definition of harassment. On the other hand, sexual harassment does not necessarily entail physical contact. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines harassment as conduct that creates a hostile work environment and that reasonable people would find offensive and intimidating. Perhaps the person who is harassing you has told you it is just part of the job you must accept. This is not true. The law is on your side, and the following steps may help you pursue justice:
- Tell the person to stop so that it is clear that you do not approve of his or her actions.
- Take notes and keep evidence of the harassment, such as emails, texts, photos and even recordings.
- Notify management, which may not resolve the matter but will at least prevent your boss from claiming to have no knowledge of the harassment.
- Seek legal counsel and assistance for filing an official complaint if the behavior persists.
- File charges with the EEOC, which will launch an investigation.
- Request a Notice of Right to Sue if your situation qualifies.
By law, your employer should in no way punish or discipline you for reporting sexual harassment on the job even if your employer is the one perpetrating the harassment. You should not experience any negative repercussions, such as a demotion, termination or mistreatment that is directly related to your complaint. This is a violation of your rights and one you can fight.
While it may seem exhausting to consider the course of action you must take to achieve a peaceful working environment, you may find comfort in knowing that taking action may benefit others in your workplace and even beyond by holding accountable those who sexually harass co-workers or employees.