Sexual comments or jokes may be part of workplace banter but are completely unacceptable if they continue despite a request to stop, if they make an employee feel uncomfortable and if it affects an employee’s ability to perform their job properly. Sexual jokes or comments may be regarded as sexual harassment, which is illegal in the workplace. Both state and federal legislation exists to ensure that employers take their responsibility to prevent and stop sexual harassment from occurring or continuing at their place of employment.
The tips below may help to give you an idea of what to do if you are experiencing unwanted sexual comments or jokes about you at work.
Tips for Reporting Sexual Harassment if a Supervisor Makes Sexual Comments or Jokes About You
Tip 1: Ask the Supervisor to Stop Harassing You
It may seem intimidating to tell your supervisor to stop the unwanted behavior but remember that the law is on your side. Politely but firmly tell your supervisor that the continuous innuendo is making you feel uncomfortable and that it is affecting your work output. The sooner you do this, the better. Talk to your coworkers if you can, as this type of harassment may be part of a more widespread pattern of behavior where you work.
It is also advisable to let your supervisor know about your concerns by email, letter, note or text so that you can keep a copy of what was sent and any response if any. This is part of the paper trail described in the following tip.
Tip 2: Keep a Paper Trail of the Comments and Jokes Made
As soon as you have been the butt of comments or jokes of a sexual nature at work, whoever it has been by, it is advisable to keep a record. You can do this digitally or even in a simple notebook. Keep a record of dates, times, locations, what was said, who said it and how it made you feel.
This ‘paper trail’ of the sexual harassment may be useful as evidence later if you decide to file a formal complaint with your employer, or with a government anti-discrimination agency like the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). Include the copies of any responses or requests to your supervisor to stop taunting you as part of your paper trail.
Tip 3: File a Formal Letter to HR
If your supervisor continues with the jokes and comments despite your request for him / her to stop, your next logical step is to file a formal complaint with the HR department or whatever its equivalent is at your workplace. This is basically an outline of what your complaint is all about and a request that your employer fulfils their legal duty to stop the behavior continuing. Your employer cannot retaliate or fire you for complaining either within the structure of the place of employment or externally with a government agency.
Provide full details of what has occurred, dates, what was said, who was involved, how you felt about it, how it had an adverse effect on your work performance. Include a copy of the paper trail that you have recorded as a response to the harasser.
Tip 4: Speak to an Attorney:
If all else fails, and you are forced to file a complaint with a government agency, it is advisable to talk to an employment law attorney before filing. The attorney can help you compile your case and also represent your interests if you decide to file a lawsuit against your employer if the EEOC or state body cannot act.
Fill out a free case evaluation using the form below.