Employers in every state have a duty of providing a safe and hazard free work environment for their employees. One of the ways they do this is by establishing rules and enforcing laws that prohibit sexual harassment and misconduct. According to Harvard Business Review, 98% of companies have a policy in effect as to what behavior is acceptable and what is considered inappropriate. However, there are instances where staff members and employers themselves fail to adhere to policy guidelines as well as the active federal laws. This behavior is sometimes classified as sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.

Sexual harassment is a common occurrence in all types of work environments. While it might happen more frequently in certain types of fields, the fact is, anyone can become a victim. And because these instances do arise, it is important for individuals who experience harassment to know how to handle the situation. Therefore, below we address a common question many individuals have who have been sexually harassed at work.

How can I address a sexual harassment incident that occurred at work?

Many individuals aren’t sure what their options are or who to take their issue to. Therefore, below are a few tips on how to handle a case of sexual harassment in the event someone is putting you in this unwanted and uncomfortable situation.

  1. Become familiar with the law. Although there is no direct law that addresses sexual harassment in the workplace, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does address harassment. The U.S. Supreme Court defines harassment as behavior that is “sufficiently severe or pervasive and that creates a hostile working environment” {Source: S. News]. You also need to read up on your company’s policy regarding sexual harassment as the other person’s behavior might not be breaking the Civil Rights Act but could be breaking a work rule.
  2. Speak up regarding the incident. Rather than try and forget the incident occurred and hope that it doesn’t happen again, it is important that you speak up and voice your concerns. In a study conducted by Cosmopolitan, 71% of the 2,235 women who took part in the study mentioned they didn’t report the incident. Aside from just speaking up, you can also write your concerns in an email so that you have record of the incident in the event you need it later on. You can send an email to the staff member or supervisor who may be behaving inappropriately and ask them to stop as it makes you uncomfortable.
  3. Implement your employer’s sexual harassment policy. If the person committing the sexual misconduct fails to stop after being asked, you can always follow the steps that are outlined in your job’s sexual harassment policy. It is also another option for you even if you don’t want to address the incident directly with the worker or other staff member. Something to keep in mind is that this might require you to take your complaint to the human resources (HR) department. They are likely going to want to conduct an investigation which might include them having to go through your emails and other personal information so they can get to the bottom of the incident. Many of the sexual harassment cases are “he said, she said” so to avoid having your complaint deemed as inconclusive, they may need further evidence to help prove inappropriate behavior has been occurring.
  4. After reporting the incident, be prepared for the outcome. According to U.S. News, after reporting a case of sexual harassment, the worker or employer who you reported could very well still work with you. While you might be able to request working in a different department, you should be prepared to potentially have to still work with this individual.
  5. Consult with a local sexual harassment attorney. If you are unsure as to whether the act committed was a form of misconduct or you are worried the individual might try and retaliate against you if you submit a complaint about them, you can always turn to a lawyer to help you.

USAttorneys.com provides individuals with the assistance they need so they can locate an attorney who can help with their case. Our agents are ready and available to help you find a sexual misconduct lawyer in your area who help you address the issue.