Unfortunately, sexual harassment is a reality in the workplace that will not magically disappear any time soon. Surveys reveal that as much as 1 in 5 of all working women experience sexual harassment. And it gets worse.
According to studies, only a quarter of women formally report sexual harassment and the women who do usually experience some form of retaliation from their employers. For women, the decision to deal with the harassment isn’t cut and dry, either.
Women are put in a difficult position when deciding how to address the issue – and many decide that it’s not worth potentially losing their livelihoods or damaging their careers.
If you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, take the following steps and contact HKM lawyers.
1. Document Everything
When you are sexually harassed, document it immediately so it’s fresh in your mind. Record every instance of the harassment.
The details you’ll need to include in your documentation are the incident’s date, time, location, and precisely what happened and who witnessed it. Tell a loved one or co-worker about the harassment and record the conversation.
If there are any texts, emails, social posts, or photos that substantiate the incident, take screenshots of them and make photocopies of them. Store all your documentation somewhere safe out of the workplace and make sure it is securely backed up to a hard drive.
While recording the instances of sexual harassment can provide valuable evidence to back up your claim, it may not be legal to record someone without their permission. Check your state laws and company policy before making any recordings.
2. Make it Clear That the Behavior is Unwelcome
Every time you are sexually harassed, tell the harasser to stop and make it clear that the behavior is unwelcome. Explain that the unwanted behavior is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Research has shown that confronting the harasser can sometimes put an end to the behavior.
From a legal perspective, telling the harasser to stop makes it clear that the harasser knew the behavior was unwelcome.
3. Report it Internally
You can report sexual harassment to your supervisor, union (if you have one), or your company’s HR manager. Be sure to bring all your documentation with you when you report the harassment.
An investigation will be conducted if you decide to lay a formal complaint against the harasser. If your HR manager or supervisor refuses to file a formal complaint, you can report them to your local human rights commission.
4. File a Charge with the EEOC
You can choose to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at any point. If you intend to file a lawsuit, you must lay a complaint with the EEOC under federal sexual harassment law.
It’s best to contact the EEOC and lay your complaint shortly after the incident of sexual harassment has occurred. There are time limits to file a charge depending on where you work. Another option is to meet with the EEOC and discuss your options.
5. Consult a Lawyer
When you’ve laid a charge with the EEOC, you may proceed with legal action within 90 days. Hiring an experienced employment lawyer to help you with the legal process is recommended. Even if you don’t intend to file a lawsuit, consulting with an employment lawyer is the best way to explore your options.
It’s important to note that meeting with an employment lawyer does not mean you need to proceed with litigation. A lawyer familiar with sexual harassment cases will be able to determine if you have a case and offer advice on the next steps.