You believe it will never happen to you, until it does. You become a victim of workplace sexual harassment and you’re now in a very difficult position.
Even though you didn’t do anything wrong, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to take action to protect yourself, your legal rights and your standing as an employee.
Here’s what you should do if you’re sexually harassed at work:
- Speak up: If you’re up to it, tell the person to stop harassing you immediately. For some, this is easy to do. For others, they don’t know exactly how to approach the situation. It can be particularly difficult to speak up if it’s a supervisor or company owner harassing you.
- Review your employee handbook: It’s here that you’re likely to find the company’s sexual harassment policy, including the steps that you can take to file a complaint. It should provide the guidance you require to proceed.
- Contact your company’s HR department: If your handbook has a section on sexual harassment, it will likely point you toward the HR department. And if it doesn’t, this is the next best step to take. It’s here that you can file a formal complaint, as to ensure that there’s an official record of what’s happened to you.
- Keep your eyes open: Now that you’ve filed a complaint of sexual harassment, watch out for retaliation from your company as a whole or specific employees, including the person who did the harassing in the first place. If this occurs, make note of what happened and collect evidence to back up your claim.
- Follow up with HR: Don’t assume that your HR department is doing their job. Follow-up regularly for updates and a clear idea of the steps they have taken to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Depending on what happens internally, you may realize that you need to go outside your company for help. For example, you can file an employment discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. From there, they’ll take over in reviewing your claim and contacting your employer to investigate.
Workplace sexual harassment remains a major concern. If you’re the victim, take the appropriate steps to protect your employment status and legal rights.