Too often sexual harassment goes unchecked in the workplace because employees either do not recognize it or are afraid to speak up.
There is a legal process to protect you from harassment of any kind, and information is the first step to empowerment.
Responding to harassment
There is a spectrum of sexual harassment starting with the milder forms, such as whistling or excessive staring, sometimes not even recognized as illegal. If a coworker does something that makes you uncomfortable there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Confront the person with a witness and ask them to stop.
- Write down each time something inappropriate happens.
- Keep a dated journal or text a friend when there is an incident.
If you are in any immediate danger, you can call the police to report an incident.
Every workplace should provide an employee handbook during the onboarding process. This should include the employer’s policy on workplace harassment and what to do should it occur. The first step is typically to report the harassment directly to your employer. If there is no policy, tell your supervisor or someone higher in the operational hierarchy. You can make your report verbally to stress the severity of the issues and in writing to have a record.
Employers have a responsibility to take sexual harassment reports seriously. They should keep your communication confidential, conduct a thorough investigation and take action immediately. If your employer does not act quickly or retaliates against you, you can file a report with the appropriate government agency.