If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, know that you’re not alone. Studies have revealed that as many as 80% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, but as many as 72% of those women do not report them. It’s important to feel empowered to speak up and make your case known after experiencing a sexual harassment incident at work. Justice can be yours if you take the right actions after experiencing a sexual harassment incident at work.
Know that there are people on your side. Here’s what you should do next.
Know Your Rights in a Sexual Harassment Case
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects individuals from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This applies to all businesses who have 15 or more employees. If you work for a company with fewer than 15 employees, you are still protected by laws in your state. Most states have ample protections against sexual harassment and inappropriate contact or conduct, so you will still have legal recourse on a state level and in civil courts.
You can experience sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of:
- Your gender or the gender of the person who is or has harassed you
- Your sexual orientation or that of the person who is or has harassed you
- Your job title or the job title of the person who is or has harassed you
- The setting: it can take place at your place of work or in a variety of other settings, so long as it a work-related event (this includes travel to and from work-related activities)
- The timeframe of the harassment—it can be a single event or an ongoing occurrence
You can also experience sexual harassment if you witness offensive conduct; you do not have to be the person who is directly being harassed at the time. It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s your employer’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent and correct sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace. Your employer also cannot retaliate against you for filing a claim or for being a participant in an investigation relating to one.
Recognizing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
There are many types of unlawful conduct that can occur in the workplace:
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
- Inappropriate looks or gestures
- Offensive jokes or comments
- Sharing of inappropriate images, emails, texts, or other communications
- Quid Pro Quo (literally translated as this for that): using sexual favors to hold things over your head at work. This can include holding promotions, employment, favorable shifts or projects, positive reviews, raises, etc.
What to Do After an Incident
Regardless of the type of harassment you have experienced, there are several steps you should take in the aftermath of the incident.
- Tell the person to stop, even if you do not feel comfortable doing so. It’s important to make it clear to the person committing the acts that their behavior is unwelcome. It also creates a verbal record of you telling the person to cease what they are doing. Unless you feel physically threatened by confronting the person, this should be the first action you take.
- Document everything. Whether this was a single incident or has been ongoing, record and document as much evidence as possible. Save emails, texts, and other written communications. Write down the dates and times of incidents, who was involved, and anyone who witnessed it. Make sure to document what was said and done during the incident. Be as detailed as possible. Think of it as a journal of the event. Keep in mind that while recording conversations can be useful, it can be illegal depending on your state. Make sure to educate yourself on the consent laws in your state regarding the recording of phone calls and conversations.
- Store the information securely. Any information you keep should be stored on a non-work computer that only you have access to. Make sure to keep a backup of that information in case something happens to it.
- Report the incident to the appropriate people within your company and according to the company’s policy (refer to your employee handbook). This person can be a superior (if they were not involved) or a human resources representative. Save all communication you have with these representatives as it may be useful in court. If the person you reported this to does not act, report it to someone else.
- Talk to external resources. You can confide in a close friend or family member, or a coworker. Not only will they provide valuable support, but they may also be able to corroborate your story.
Consult a Sexual Harassment Attorney
Many people may be liable when it comes to a workplace sexual harassment claim, including your employer, workers union, individual supervisors, or any employment agency who placed you. This depends on the circumstances of your case, and it’s one element a sexual harassment lawyer can help you determine. At Morelli Law, we understand how intimidating it can be to come forward with a claim of sexual harassment in the workplace. We are here to protect you and get you the justice you deserve. Someone has hurt and wronged you, and that’s never okay. We have worked with victims of harassment and sexual violence to help them regain a part of their life, and we’re here to help you too.
Do not hesitate when it comes to your case, get in touch with us today for a free consultation. It’s the first step towards getting you the justice you deserve.