Sexual harassment affects millions of workers in the U.S. While sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, it continues to happen. Sexual harassment claims are difficult to prove, and many victims are afraid to report what is happening to them out of fear of retaliation. Both men and women can be victims of workplace sexual harassment. If someone is engaging in sexually harassing conduct at your work, here are eight things that you can do to try to remedy the situation.
1. Document comments and differential treatment.
Whether you are suffering from ongoing sexual harassment or quid pro quo harassment, you should document everything. Sexual harassment can take two forms, including hostile work environment harassment and quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when the conduct is so pervasive that it creates a hostile and unwelcome work environment that interferes with your ability to perform your job duties. Examples of this type of conduct might include obscene jokes, pornographic displays, sexually explicit messages or emails, and similar behavior based on gender. The harasser can be of the opposite sex or the same sex as you. The harassment must be severe or ongoing to constitute hostile work environment harassment. A single incident is often not enough unless it is very severe. This makes it important for you to document each harassing incident with dates, times, and the names of people who witnessed what happened.
2. Document quid pro quo harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a person in a position of authority at your job conditions a job benefit or an adverse job action on your agreeing to engage in sexual activity. For example, if your boss tells you that you will only get a raise if you submit to his or her unwelcome sexual advances, this is an unlawful form of sexual harassment. Similarly, if your job is threatened unless you give in to a supervisor’s demands for sexual favors, it is also illegal. Write down the date, time, any threats or offers that are made, the sexual advances that are made, and the names and any people who witnessed what happened. Document everything even if no one saw what happened.
3. Keep your documentation somewhere safe.
As you create documentation of the sexually harassing incidents that happen at your job, you should be careful with where you store them. They should not be kept in your desk at work, on your work computer, or anywhere else where your employer might discover and take them. Instead, you should keep your notes in your briefcase or purse, or write them at home on your personal computer. If your employer fires you, you won’t be able to recover notes on your work computer. Your employer might claim any documentation left behind was lost.
4. Gather evidence.
If you have paper evidence showing the harasser’s behavior, it can be helpful to your case. Do not erase texts, emails, cards, letters, or notes that you are sent by your harasser. Take screenshots of text messages and print them so that they will not be lost if you lose your phone or device. Print out everything and keep it at home in a safe place. Ask to see your personnel file, and make copies of your performance evaluations. Keep them at home with your other evidence.
5. Report the harassment under your company’s reporting policy.
Most companies have policies and procedures in place for reporting sexual harassment. Before you can file a lawsuit, you must file an internal complaint and give your employer a chance to rectify the situation. Make sure that you adhere to any policy and report your harassment to the right person. If your harasser is the person to whom you are supposed to make a report, there should be an alternate person who can take your complaint.
Make your report in writing. If you only report sexual harassment verbally, your employer might claim that you never reported what happened. If you do give a verbal report, follow up with a written report to confirm the conversation that you had. List the incidents of sexual harassment, and ask for your employer to investigate and correct the problem. Your employer is not required to fire your harasser or inform you about the action it has taken. Instead, your employer must make the problem stop. If your harasser continues harassing you or tries to retaliate, report him or her again.
6. File a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC.
If your employer fails to take any action to end the harassment after your report, you can file a sexual harassment and discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You must act quickly. Depending on where you live, you will have from 180 to 300 days from the date when the discrimination occurred to file your charge. Once you do, you will be protected against retaliation. If your employer retaliates against you for filing a charge, you will have separate grounds to file a retaliation complaint. An arbitration clause in your employment agreement cannot be used to keep you from filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
7. Hire an experienced attorney.
Working with an experienced lawyer at Swartz Swidler can help you to protect your rights. Your attorney can also help you to understand the types of evidence to gather and how to complete your discrimination charge.
8. Consider leaving for a new job.
If your employer will not do anything to stop the harassment you are experiencing, it is a good idea for you to look for a new job. While you should not be bullied into quitting, you also should not feel like you are trapped at your job.
Dealing with sexual harassment at your job can be overwhelming. While you might be scared to report what is happening to you, complaining about sexual harassment can help to end the problem. Talk to the sexual harassment lawyers in NJ at Swartz Swidler about what has happened and for help with filing a sexual harassment and discrimination charge.