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How Should I Handle Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Ideally, your workplace is an environment that motivates and inspires you, but whether you view your work as a vocation or just a job, you deserve to feel safe and well respected.

That is impossible if you’re the victim of workplace sexual harassment. People who are the victims of sexual harassment frequently feel helpless in the face of their victimization. At worst they fear the loss of their job or some other form of retaliation, and at best they worry that they will not be believed.

Sexual harassment can happen to anybody, no matter your gender, your age or sexual orientation. It can take the form of requests for sexual favors, unwanted sexual advances, and verbal physical or visual harassment. It does not always have to do with a colleague or supervisor looking for sexual favors – sexual harassment can also surround issues having to do with your role as a parent, with pregnancy, with breastfeeding and other medical issues. It can take the form of a quid pro quo or a hostile environment.

If you are being subjected to what you believe is workplace sexual harassment, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that the perpetrator knows that their attention or action is unwelcome. You must communicate this to them, even if it is simply by stating that the behavior is making you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop. If you need to, you can let them know that if they don’t stop you plan on reporting their behavior. You should also take the time to record every troublesome interaction, including the date and time that it happened and all the details, including any witnesses. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have all of your employee records indicating good behavior or performance as harassers often try to turn the tables on those who report them and claim that their job performance is subpar.

If the behaviors don’t stop upon your request, your next step is to report it to your immediate supervisor, or if they are the person who is harassing you, then you should go to their supervisor or to Human Resources with your complaint and documentation. Make sure that you keep a copy of everything that you provide and anything that you are asked to sign or are given. If you are not offered a copy, then photograph it on your phone. Your company is required to address and investigate your claims and stop the harassment. If they fail to do so they can be found liable for the harasser’s behaviors.

Your next step should be a call to a sexual harassment attorney who can advise you as to your eligibility to file a legal claim.