Despite being prohibited under federal law, workplace harassment is still an unfortunate occurrence in the workplace. Harassment at work can can take a number of forms, from physical to verbal, and every worker should be able to defend himself/herself against such inappropriate behavior.
You have a right to feel safe at work and should be able to perform your job without having to deal with unwanted groping, touching, verbal abuse or stalking. If you feel like you’ve been harassed at work, here are some steps to take to address the issue.
Collect Your Thoughts on How to Possibly Handle the Situation
Some folks have no issue with reporting sexual harassment, but not everyone is quite so brave. It is possible to feel a sense of fear and to freeze up when you’ve experienced sexual harassment, for example. You might be scared of the harasser, or about what your coworkers or even boss might think. It’s wise to calmly think about your best possible approach.
You want to be firm and clear in sending a message in the moment that the behavior or action was unwanted, and that it has legal implications and should be stopped immediately.
Talk to a Lawyer
It doesn’t hurt to schedule a consult with a lawyer to talk about the matter. It might be that there is ground for legal action, or the lawyer may not see a need for a lawsuit. Regardless, you’d have gained some insight and if there was a recurrence, you would know exactly what to do about it.
Document What Was Said or Done
Documentation is key in creating a paper trail that can be useful if legal action arises. Immediately after the fact, write down the date and time of the incident, what was done or said and the coworkers who witnessed the event. You want to avoid any chance of a “he-said, she-said” situation, on one hand, and since memories can fade, documentation can store what you have lost from memory.
Document offenses such as requests for sexual favors, any form of retaliation stemming from resisting, and lost opportunities for things like a promotion. Save emails, notes and voicemails, all of which could help your case. Be sure not to use work property for your documentation; instead, have a personal notebook handy.
Confide in Supportive and Trustworthy Coworkers
There is a good chance that you might not be your harasser’s first victim, and you may have supportive and trustworthy coworkers who have dealt with harassment in the workplace before. You may be able to find out how to navigate the process of reporting the harassment, as well as learn more about your harasser’s history and possibly show a pattern of harassing behavior.
Report the Harassment
It doesn’t help you to not speak about the harassment to the appropriate workplace personnel. In simple terms, you should report the harassment. Just about every company has a some kind of policy related to sexual harassment and it’s imperative that you file a report with those in a position with the authority to take action. This is a significant first step, which is your right.
Harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated, and you have a right to protect yourself. Having some knowledge of what to do if you feel that you’ve been harassed can help to deal with the issue boldly. All in all, know that it is not your fault and you don’t have to tolerate workplace harassment of any kind.