If you’ve ever seen a coworker subjected to inappropriate behavior, it can be a helpless feeling. You want to step in but aren’t sure what exactly would be the most helpful.
Here are a few things you can do to support someone you suspect has been a victim of sexual harassment:
1) If they talk about harassment, believe them
Many times, victims are afraid to come forward for fear of not being taken seriously. This goes especially true in the workplace, where someone’s career can be harmed simply by obtaining a reputation for being “no fun” or “too serious”. If a co-worker talks to you about sexual harassment, take them seriously.
2) Offer to review workplace policies with them
It can be helpful for victims of sexual harassment to review the company handbook or policy around workplace harassment. This helps reinforce that the behavior they are experiencing should not be tolerated and usually offers advice on what action to take to stop it.
3) Just listen
If a co-worker trusts you enough to talk about behavior that is making him or her uncomfortable, sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply listen. It can be tempting to jump in with suggestions or offer advice, but try listening to what they have to say. Venting can be a helpful step towards action.
4) Speak with the harasser
With the victim’s permission, consider approaching the harasser to let them know their behavior is inappropriate. While this can be an uncomfortable conversation, if it ends the offending behavior it will be worth it. Sometimes, the harasser will not realize how much they are making a person uncomfortable until someone tells them. You can talk to them without naming the victim.
These are just a few of the things you can do to support a co-worker who has experienced sexual harassment at work. Remember that no employee should be forced to work in these kinds of conditions. If you have questions about your rights as a worker, a skilled employee attorney can help.