Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal and has been so for a long time now, but it is still prevalent in many U.S. workplaces.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment it is worth reminding yourself that it is not your fault and that your employer has a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen and that it makes an effort to investigate then stop it as soon as you have reported it.
There are various steps you can take to report sexual harassment at work. They may involve contacting your work superiors or a federal or state body that exists to deal with this type of illegal behavior.
Where to Report Sexual Harassment at Work
Sexual harassment takes many different forms. It can involve unwanted verbal comments or taunts, sexual innuendo or jokes, unsolicited pestering online via emails, social media or text messages.
It may involve lewd remarks in front of others, unwanted physical contact such as groping, attempts at kissing or touching, right through to more violent contact such as sexual assault and rape.
Some bosses may demand that you provide sexual favors in return for a job or promotion.
The first step should be to see if there are any guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment in your employee handbook if there is one.
There may be details of steps you should take, who to see, etc. Federal and state laws on sexual harassment make it mandatory for the employer to provide an environment in which sexual harassment does not take place and a system for dealing with it if it arises.
You may need to talk to your HR department, if there is one, about the harassment. If there is no HR, see a supervisor, or manager.
If your immediate supervisor or manager is the one who is doing the harassing, you should contact a manager or boss at a higher level. They must do something about any case of sexual harassment or risk their company or organization being penalized or sued.
Failing any help at all from your employer, or if you are worried that your harasser is the one in charge of the workplace, your next step should be to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).
This is the federal agency in charge of all kinds of workplace discrimination. Sexual harassment is regarded as a form of sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964.
The law only applies to workplaces where there are 15 or more employees, but if you are in a smaller workplace, there will be an equivalent state government department that deals with this type of behavior.
Once you have formally filed a complaint with either the federal or state body, together with as much evidence as possible, the complaint will be investigated.
If there has been a violation of the laws on sexual harassment you may have the opportunity to sue your employer for failure to provide a safe environment to work in.
Where to Report Workplace Sexual Harassment Outside of Work
In some cases, the person who has been harassing you at work may extend their tactics outside of work time, for example constantly phoning you, following you, emailing you etc.
As long as the person is a co-worker, or someone working as the same workplace as you, even though the activity has extended to an outside work environment, you have the same basic steps available to go through to deal with the harassment.
Can a Lawyer Help You Report Harassment?
An employment law attorney can help you at any stage of your complaint. It is definitely worthwhile contacting an attorney early on before you file a complaint with the EEOC or equivalent state body to make sure you have good grounds for filing the complaint.
If the complaint is seen to be justified by the EEOC, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against the employer and the attorney will be able to provide advice and help you prepare a suitable claim.
Your employer cannot penalize you or sack you simply because you have filed a complaint against them for failure to do something about sexual harassment.