You don’t go to work with the idea that you’ll be a victim of sexual harassment. However, this is never out of the question. From a coworker to a supervisor to a client, there’s always a possibility that this could enter your life.
It’s not something you want to deal with, but sweeping workplace sexual harassment under the rug is a mistake you never want to make. You have legal rights, and it’s imperative that you protect them.
Here are the steps to take if you’re being sexually harassed at work:
- Speak up: At the first sign of harassment, speak up to let the person know that you’re not going to stand for their behavior. Be firm so that they know you’re 100% serious. This is often enough to scare them away from doing anything else in the future.
- Report the incident: Regardless of the circumstances, you should report the incident to your HR department. Filing a formal complaint will work in your favor should the behavior continue or if you need to take action in the future.
- Collect evidence: It’s not always good enough to say that someone is sexually harassing you at work. You need to back up your claim with evidence. This can include everything from text message and email conversations to things they’ve said that others have heard.
- Protect yourself: You have every right to be concerned about your well-being, so it’s critical that you take steps to protect yourself every time you’re around your harasser. For example, don’t go to a private place alone with this person. Doing so puts you at risk.
- Follow up with HR: Once you file a claim, don’t wait long to follow up with HR to see what they’re doing about it.
While these are the most important steps to take if you’re being sexually harassed at work, anything you can do to protect yourself is extremely important.
If you don’t get the assistance you’re looking for from your employer, it may be time to take your complaint to the next level by filing a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.