Are you being sexually harassed at work? Every employee in the workplace needs to equip themselves with information about what he or she can do if they are being harassed. Below are steps you should take to preserve your legal claims.
1. Don’t quit your job.
In most cases, quitting your job may significantly reduce your ability to collect damages against your employer.
2. Reject the harassment.
Make it clear to the harasser that you are not interested in his or her advances. There are two types of sexual harassment. The first type is quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo means “something for something.” An example of quid pro quo harassment may be a supervisor demanding a date or sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or continued employment. In this case of quid pro quo harassment, you should specifically tell the harasser that you are not interested in his or her proposal. The second type of harassment is hostile work environment harassment. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when employees are made to feel uncomfortable at work due to sexually charged behavior, including unwelcome sexual advances, displaying sexual images, sexually derogatory comments or statements, including emails and text messages. In the case of hostile work environment harassment, you should let the harasser know that his or her actions are making you uncomfortable and ask them to stop.
3. Know your employer’s policies.
Consult your employee handbook, if you have one. If your employer has a sexual harassment policy in place, follow it. Even if your employer does not require a written complaint, it is always a best practice to put your complaint in writing. If the policy requires that you report harassment to your supervisor and he or she is the one that is harassing you, make your report to his or her supervisor and/or the Human Resources department.
4. Collect Evidence.
Gathering evidence to support your claim of harassment should help your employer stop the harassment from continuing and, if your employer fails to do so, set you up for a strong sexual harassment case. Evidence should include your notes documenting dates and descriptions of the harassment, text messages and emails, and even photos and videos.
5. Keep an eye out for retaliation.
Under Title VII (the federal law that prohibits workplace sexual harassment), it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against you for complaining about sexual harassment. Retaliation is any adverse employment action that interferes with the terms or conditions of your employment, including being transferred to another department or having your shift changed, being passed up for a promotion, or being demoted or terminated.
6. Hire an attorney and take legal action.
If the harassment continues following your complaints or your employer retaliates against you, you should retain a lawyer and take legal action against your employer. Damages for sexual harassment and retaliation can include: reinstatement, lost wages and benefits, damages for emotional distress and embarrassment, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
For additional information on sexual harassment in the workplace, check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website at http://www.eeoc.gov.
If you believe you are or have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, call the experienced employment law attorneys at CLC for a free case evaluation at 317-388-5424.