Sexual harassment at workplaces is more common than most people would care to admit. Both men and women suffer abuse from colleagues, their bosses, juniors, and customers. Sadly, navigating sexual harassment issues at work can feel very tricky due to office politics, especially if it involves someone in a senior position. So many new hires and interns usually feel helpless, and some may even go as far as blaming themselves and suffering in silence.
If you’re going through this terrible experience, here are six ways that can help you find a solution.
1. Document The Harassment
Documentation of all the harassment you experience will prove so helpful when you finally decide to file a formal complaint.
Sexual harassment manifests in different ways. It could be some comments which keep on getting so personal with each passing day. Sometimes it is in the form of propositions like your boss telling you they can increase the figure in your bonus check if you went out on a date with them. It can also be more direct, like a manager promising you a promotion if you sleep with them. In other cases, things get physical as the perpetrator starts touching you inappropriately.
You must document all these details. Note down what exactly happened, plus the date and place where it took place. These details strengthen your case and will be useful if the perpetrator decides to retaliate.
Store this evidence somewhere safe. Don’t leave the documents in your work computer or the drawers. Have them with you in your phone, briefcase, purse, or at the home PC.
2. Say No To The Perpetrator
If you feel safe, make it clear to the perpetrator that whatever they are doing or saying is inappropriate and makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s a very bold step to take, especially if the perpetrator is your senior. However, it is vital to let them know that you are uncomfortable so that when you move forward with your complaint, you can tell your employer or EEOC that you spoke up multiple times.
3. Lodge A Formal Complaint To Your Employer
If the harassment continues, collect your evidence and file a formal complaint with the employer.
The first step is getting your hands on the company’s sexual harassment complaint procedure. Companies with more than 50 employees have sexual harassment training requirements and a guide on reporting these complaints. You want to follow the steps outlined in the handbook accurately to ensure the company does not get any leeway not to act.
The complaint should be done formally in writing and reported to the relevant manager or HR personnel. If, for some reason, you are not comfortable reporting to that particular person, find a different manager and make the complaint.
You shouldn’t wait too long to make your complaint. According to the EEOC, you only have 180 days since the last episode to file the complaint. If the state laws also cover the issue, you will have 300 days.
4. Record A Formal Complaint At The EEOC
If the company doesn’t take any action, take the next step and file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Your complaint should come within 180 or 300 days since the last harassment depending on whether it is also covered by your local discrimination laws or not.
EEOC receives quite a huge number of sexual harassment reports. In some cases, the complainants also face retaliation from the company or perpetrator. You can report the retaliation to the commission or sue.
5. Hire An Attorney
You won’t need an attorney if your employer takes action. You can also file a complaint with EEOC without the assistance of a lawyer. However, an employment law attorney may be necessary if the process feels overwhelming or in case your employer doesn’t take any action and threatens to retaliate.
You can spend some money to get the full-time services of an attorney and get a free legal consultation from advocacy organizations. These organizations can also give you referrals and get you any counseling you may need.
6. Consider Making A Change
Ideally, you would want to get rid of all sorts of harassment and get back to a good working environment. Sadly, that is not always possible. It’s okay to start a job search and pursue new opportunities elsewhere. This gives you a fresh start that may be necessary if the complaint caused many issues in the company.
That’s how to deal with sexual harassment in your workplace. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t endure any form of abuse in silence. Speak up and take action.