Although prohibited by state and federal law, sexual harassment still sometimes happens at work. If you experience this type of violation, it may make you uncomfortable, cost you your job or even cause you injuries, among other effects.
To help protect yourself and your livelihood, it will likely benefit you to understand what you should do if sexually harassed in the workplace.
Knowing what constitutes sexual harassment
Perhaps the most important step in safeguarding your rights at work includes knowing what qualifies as sexual harassment. According to the California Department of Justice, sexual harassment in the workplace involves verbal, visual and physical sexual conduct that creates an offensive, intimidating or hostile working environment. Additionally, and more commonly thought of as this type of violation, sexual harassment also refers to unwanted sexual advances.
Following your employer’s procedures
Depending on the circumstances, the first step you will likely take if you experience workplace sexual harassment is to report it to your employer and allow them the opportunity to address the problem. To do this, you should follow your employer’s reporting procedures, which you may find outlined in your employee handbook, for example. Submitting such reports in writing and keeping records of the report, as well as of what occurred, when and involving whom also sometimes benefits workers in such cases.
Filing a formal report
Should the problem not resolve at the employer level or if you feel so inclined, you may also choose to file a formal report. You should adhere to the procedures outlined by the appropriate state or federal agency, such as the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you suffer sexual assault at work, you should immediately notify law enforcement.
Employees who experience sexual harassment in the workplace may have entitlement to restorative measures, which sometimes include compensatory damages. Therefore, if you suffer such a violation of your rights at work, you may consider consulting with an attorney to learn more about your options for seeing this wrong made right.