What Should I do if I’m Being Sexually Harassed at Work?

*This is a transcript of the Facebook Live video from 4-6-18  Click here to watch the video.

So that raises the question, what should I do if I’m being sexually harassed at work? The answer to that question, doing it can be very, very difficult, because the answer is you need to report it. If it’s a coworker, particularly, the law requires that you report it to the company so that they can take appropriate action and that if you don’t, it’s like it never happened as far as the company is concerned. If you can’t prove that the company knew about it, then there’s no obligation on the part of the company to try to remedy the situation. Therefore, you don’t have a claim against the company if you decide to bring an EEOC charge or a lawsuit. If it’s a supervisor, then you may or may not, depending on the circumstance, you may or may not have to alert the company beforehand, say before you go outside. Although, it still is a good idea. I always say you want to give the company the ability to do what’s right.

Again, that’s going to depend on your particular circumstance. Companies of a certain size, several hundred employees that have a robust and mature human resources department, they’re going to react to these sorts of complaints differently than a smaller operation where the person that is the harasser may be the person you’d be expected to report it to, whether it’s the owner of a company or a senior manager or the brother of the owner of the company or what have you. In that circumstance, where you’re not comfortable, I would reach out to an employment lawyer and tell them your situation and get some advice on exactly how to proceed. The first step is to stand up to it. The first step might be just to let the person know that you’re talking to or that’s dealing with you, look, I don’t appreciate this at all. Maybe put it in an email. The comments that you’ve been making about me lately make me feel uncomfortable, and I wish you would stop. Then, maybe you copy your supervisor or HR on that email. Then, if they continue, you can go to HR or your supervisor and say, “I tried to take care of this informally, but that didn’t work. Now I need more formal help in order to take care of this situation.”

If the company turns a blind eye to it or doesn’t agree with your complaint, or if they do an investigation and tell you, “Well, we investigated it, and we can’t find any evidence, so we’re not going to do anything,” then you really may wan to consider going to the EEOC or going to a private attorney for some intervention at that point. Again, depending upon your circumstance, a private attorney might recommend, well, let’s just write a letter and see if that doesn’t take care of it so that you can escalate towards filing an EEOC complaint. By the way, EEOC, sometimes we lawyers talk in acronyms, but it stands for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That’s the federal agency that’s tasked, among other things, with investigating claims of sexual harassment.

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