When sexual harassment happens in the workplace, the victim can feel powerless. Many feel there is nothing to be done that he or she must just take it. However, there are steps a victim can take to stop it.
Sexual Harassment Steps
The first step is to come forward and let the offending party know that their conduct is offensive. In many cases, the offender may not know that his or her behavior is hurting you. However, this does not mean the behavior will stop, but this documents the abuse and lets the harasser know firsthand that the conduct is not wanted.
So, after alerting the harasser that the conduct is offensive and it continues, the next step is to check your company’s procedures. Most companies have a detailed procedure for handling sexual harassment claims. If your company has such a procedure, you should follow it to the letter. This means taking note of any time limits set out in that policy. For example, many employer policies will designate someone to whom the victim reports to. Therefore, make sure the designated staff knows, and this would be a good starting point.
However, if there is no set procedure in place for reporting sexual harassment, you should bring your complaint to your immediate supervisor. If your supervisor is the one committing the harassment, make your complaint to your supervisor’s immediate superior. It is important to make sure that your company’s management is aware of the harassment.
All harassment should be recorded and keep copies of complaints along with dates, times, persons involved, and what was said.
If the internal company does not resolve claims, you can file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s human rights or civil rights enforcement agency. The governmental agency will investigate your claim and will attempt to resolve it by negotiating with your employer. If the agency cannot resolve your complaint, and it determines that your claim is a valid one, it will issue a “right to sue” letter. This letter means that you may bring your case to court.
After the “right to sue”, you may bring a civil lawsuit. However, you do not need to show physical injuries since the most common injuries in a sexual harassment case are the emotional injuries.
Some of the recoverable damages are:
- Reinstatement, if you lost your job
- Three times of back pay or lost money or missed from raise
- Lost fringe benefits
- Damages for emotional distress
- New sexual harassment policies or training
- Attorney’s fees and court costs
If you have experienced sexual harassment in any form in the workplace, you should contact a qualified employment attorney as soon as possible. If the harassment has not stopped after making a formal complaint with your employer, consulting a harassment lawyer is your best option. Your attorney will be able to provide further guidance, help you file a claim with the EEOC, and help you build a case that will put an end to what you have experienced.