Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, harmful, and all too common. According to some national studies, as many as 5 out of 10 women and 4 out of 10 men reported experiencing sexual harassment at work in the past year.
So what can you do if it happens to you?
Here, in no specific order, is a list of steps you can take if you are being sexually harassed at work:
1. Tell Them To Stop
First of all, if you feel comfortable doing so yourself, you can tell the perpetrator(s) to stop what they are doing to you. This can be done in person or in writing, but be sure to pinpoint the exact behavior that bothers you. Also, tell the person(s) that their behavior is offensive to you and that you need it to stop.
2. Find Support
Discuss the matter with friends, family, and coworkers you trust. You can also reach out to local support groups. But, by all means, understand that you are not alone.
3. Collect Records
Keep a record of each incident of sexual harassment. Record what happened, when it happened, where it happened, and who saw it. Save all harassing notes, emails, voicemails, pictures, and videos. Also, save copies of any communications you have had with the perpetrator(s), your supervisors, and coworkers regarding the harassment. Finally, it’s a good idea to keep these records at home for privacy and safety.
4. Read Your Employer’s Policy on Sexual Harassment at Work
Read your employer’s policy on sexual harassment to find out how to file an official complaint against those who are harassing you. If you are a union employee, speak with your union representative to learn how to file a grievance through the union.
5. Report It
Report the sexual harassment to your supervisor or to anyone who has been designated to deal with such matters. You can do this in person, but it’s best to submit this report in writing as well. Be very specific about the sexual harassment you have endured, what you have personally done to address the harassment, and what you need your employer to do to stop it.
6. Understand Your Rights
Employers are required to expeditiously investigate any complaint of sexual harassment and if sexual harassment has indeed occurred, take the necessary steps needed to stop it. Your employer must also keep your sexual harassment complaint confidential. However, they will most likely need to speak with the person(s) harassing you regarding their behavior, as well as, anyone who witnessed their behavior. Lastly, the law prohibits your employer from punishing you in any way for filing a sexual harassment complaint or participating in any investigation of that complaint.
To learn more about what you can do if you are being sexually harassed at work, contact an experienced Tennessee employment law attorney who can explain to you your rights and options. You may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit against your employment to recover damages for any job-related benefits and opportunities you lost as result of the harassment.