Most sexual harassment cases are not handled properly, and even more are not reported because the victims feel uncomfortable or intimidated to confront their harassers. They lack good knowledge on how to handle sexual harassment in the workplace, beginning from the reporting system and fear of retaliation. The circumstance is actually difficult to handle; more victims fail to recognize sexual harassment or their rights, how to file a formal complaint and are mostly overwhelmed by the situation.
It is imperative to educate yourself on what sexual harassment is if you feel uncomfortable about anyone’s behavior at your workplace, including how your claims could become formal and how to deal with sexual harassment.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment includes all forms of sex discrimination such as physical, visual, or verbal harassment, request for sexual favors, and unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. It can manifest in the following two forms.
Quid pro quo: this is when your work benefits, assignment or other employment decisions depend on how you respond to sexual advances.
Hostile work environment: this type of sexual harassment involves conducts or comments that can interfere with your performance at work by creating a hostile work environment; making it offensive or intimidating. Sexual harassment here does not have to involve sexual behavior rather may consist of inappropriate comments, jokes or displays of sexual materials.
Steps on how to handle sexual harassment in the workplace
1. Read your company’s sexual harassment policy
You will need to first read through your company’s policy for sexual harassment if you believe you are being harassed at your workplace. This is if your company has provided a guideline on how to handle sexual harassment. Otherwise, move to step two.
2. Write down a detailed note of the event
The most important aspect of any sexual harassment case is information about what happened. While the memory is still fresh, take your time to write down a full detail of the encounter. Include the names of your witnesses (if any), who harassed you, what happened, where, when and date. If you have any evidence such as texts or email, print them out and store appropriately in your personal archive at home, not at the office.
3. Formally inform your harasser
Formally confront your harasser, tell her or him about the inappropriate behavior affecting you. Ask him/her to stop and refer to some examples. You will also need an evidence of this conversation. Hence, it is better if you have emailed the person and file your copies.
4. Follow your company’s reporting policy
If the harassment does not stop, you’ll need to go ahead with reporting the behavior to your company’s HR or management depending on the guideline provided. Being that most employers rarely deal with sexual harassment appropriately, also, send an email to thank your HR or management for listening to your concern, politely highlighting the event. Print and file a copy.
5. File a complaint with EEOC
With your employer not able to follow a convincing method on how to handle sexual harassment, your final step is filing a complaint with EEOC (Equal Opportunity Employment Commission). Your complaint must be filed not later than 300 days after harassment. This, however, depends on your state and local laws for harassment and will require you to consult an attorney.
You may need to be documenting all positive evaluations received at work and evidence of your good performance in case your employer decides to retaliate because you file for a claim. Continue to keep a record of any further harassment after you have filed with EEOC.
Handling sexual harassment could be overwhelming. Try to consult your friends or relatives for support while following up on your case and always listen to your attorney, who must be reputable.