Sexual harassment is any verbal or physical action that’s considered offensive, humiliating or intimidating. In the workplace, it may be in the form of teasing, belittling, or any physical assault that invokes hostility, ultimately affecting an individual’s employment. It can happen to anyone regardless of gender, making it an equal opportunity offense.
The Equal Pay Act – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act — is among the laws on sexual harassment in the workplace that make discrimination and harassment illegal and protect employees from it.
Victims of sexual harassment should speak up and fight for justice. Keeping quiet will not stop the perpetrator from repeating the unwanted behavior.
Here are the steps in reporting sexual harassment:
Confront the offending party
If you are the one being harassed, you can attempt to tell the harasser that their acts towards you are unwelcome and that they should stop immediately. But if you are not comfortable doing this, you can write a brief letter, addressing the issue to them. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter to serve as evidence in case you have to file a report.
Dealing with the sexual harasser by yourself may be difficult but it is one of the most effective ways to stop the harassment, especially if it is in the form of verbal assault or discrimination like offensive jokes, inappropriate comments or other forms of spoken bullying. This should be a clear signal to the harasser that the hostile behavior is unwanted.
Have a copy of the company policy
Before reporting the harassment, check first if your company has a written policy for prevention of sexual harassment at workplace. Should there be one, secure a copy of it. If there is none, approach your human resource department and ask how you can file a report.
Company policies related to sexual harassment/assault should guide you how to escalate your complaint within the company, as well as mention the contact persons responsible for handling such concerns. It should also inform you about the procedures regarding harassment or retaliation and how the employer should resolve these complaints – like taking immediate corrective and preventive measures to avoid future incidents of this nature.
Remember to keep a copy outside your workplace so you can access it in the event of unexpected termination of employment.
Convey the matter to the supervisor or manager
If the harasser ignores your pleas to stop or becomes more hostile, you can report the incident to a manager or a supervisor – that is, unless the supervisor is the perpetrator. In this case, you can file your complaint at the human resource department. That way, the employer becomes aware of the sexual harassment occurring within their establishment and gives them a chance to correct and stop it.
The employee who fails to carry out this step may not be able to hold the company liable in a lawsuit.
Document the harassment
Documenting the workplace harassment is important to help you prove your case to a company investigator, a government agency or the jury.
Collect as much evidence as possible. Save all offensive emails, photographs or cards that you have received. Take down discriminating cartoons, jokes, notes or pin-ups posted on the bulletin board and keep these. If this is not possible, you can take photographs of the insulting posts.
If you can, keep a journal that details the harassment. Be as specific as possible about what occurred and how it affected you and your job performance. Include names of those who were involved, those who witnessed the incident, and the positions of these people in the workplace. Also, write down the date, time and place of the incidents.
File a complaint with the proper government agency
If you are not satisfied by the investigation and resolution of your employer regarding your complaint of sexual harassment, then you can escalate your complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the state’s fair employment office. Finding merit in your case, these agencies will issue a “right-to-sue” letter that allows you to file a lawsuit for damages under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with your own lawyer.
Find a sexual assault attorney
Should you need legal assistance from a reputable sexual harassment lawyer in San Diego, you can get in touch with Hogue & Belong. Their team of lawyers has been known to serve the interests of those seeking justice from sexual assault, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.