Sexual harassment in the workplace cases often leave victims feeling confused and powerless. Often, victims of harassment think they cannot do anything about it. They fear that they are too weak to challenge the harasser.
Especially in the workplace, victims fear that the perpetrators can overpower them. They fear for their jobs, safety, and reputation. Hence, they remain meek and quiet. In reality, victims of sexual harassment have more right in law.
There are a lot of things that a victim can do to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Listed below are a few ways to help you empower yourself to stop this demeaning behavior.
Identify the act
Sexual harassment cases are serious accusations against the perpetrators. As such, before you take up steps to address it, you must first identify with certainty that what transpired is indeed sexual harassment.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of sexual nature made on a person who may be an applicant or an employee constitute sexual harassment. In such a case, the harassment creates a hostile work environment or unreasonably interferes with an employee’s performance.
The harasser can be anyone. It could be your supervisor, co-worker, client, or customer.
If you are certain that the act committed against you constitutes sexual harassment, do not hesitate to speak up.
In some cases, the offending party may not realize that what they do is offensive. In that case, let the former know that their conduct is offensive. By doing so, the offending party is given a chance to stop the behavior and given an opportunity to be more sensitive to others.
Additionally, make sure to document the harassment. Be sure to note where and when each incident occurred, what happened, as well as if there were any witnesses. Meticulous documentation is very important, and your lawyer will need these details should you ever need to file a claim.
Resort to grievance mechanisms
If the offensive conduct does not stop, you need to resort to your employer’s procedures on filing complaints. Most companies have well-established procedures to handle employer complaints, including sexual harassment claims.
If your company has procedures for sexual harassment cases, follow it. There are employer policies that require you to file your sexual harassment complaint with the HR Department or disciplinary board. You can do the prescribed procedures while carefully observing time limitations.
If the company you work in has no prescribed procedure, you can bring the incident up with your immediate supervisor. In case the offender is your immediate supervisor, bring your complaint to his immediate supervisor.
The company’s management must be made aware of the hostile environment brought about by sexual harassment incidents in the workplace. Only through this awareness will they be able to support you and help stop the harassment.
File an administrative charge with the appropriate government agency
If the sexual harassment case is not resolved despite going through the company grievance process, you can administratively pursue it. You can file an administrative charge with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s civil rights enforcement agency.
These agencies will investigate your claim and will adopt specific measures to resolve it. They will investigate the circumstances, nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the incidents occurred. Sexual harassment cases are to be determined on a case-to-case basis, depending on the allegations in the complaint.
If the agency’s attempt to resolve the issue becomes unfruitful, it will issue a letter allowing you to bring your case to court.
File a lawsuit
As earlier mentioned, if the appropriate government agency fails to resolve the issue, they will issue a letter authorizing you to file a suit against the perpetrator. With that letter, you may file a suit to claim damages for the injuries you sustained due to the sexual harassment incident. Your claim will be made against the offender, who can either be your supervisor, co-worker, client, or customer.
You can consult with a personal injury lawyer to assist and represent you in your claims. They will be more than equipped to handle sexual harassment cases.
Since most injuries in sexual harassment cases are emotional and psychological, you will need to prove that said injuries exist. To do this, you can present your testimony, records, or witness accounts to prove the allegation and prove the injuries you sustained. You can have all these prepared with the help and guidance of your attorney.
Sexual harassment cases are traumatizing encounters, especially when it occurs in the workplace. They can leave the impression that the office is not a safe environment or make you paranoid and unable to perform your job effectively.
When that happens, you should not keep quiet about it. Assert your rights by speaking up and resorting to authorities. If necessary, talk to a lawyer and file a suit against the offender. By adopting the above measures, you empower yourself to handle sexual harassment should it occur.
Kevin Moore is an aspiring lawyer and a passionate advocate for human rights. He enjoys writing for magazine columns and websites to talk about equal rights, politics, and labor issues. He dreams of building his own law firm in the future to help the oppressed and the less fortunate. He aspires to be a hero for the weak.