Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” (as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Not every offensive comment qualifies as sexual harassment as the law defines it. Offhand comments, simple teasing, or isolated incidents that are not very serious are not prohibited by law. Only when the harassment is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or when it results in an adverse job action (such as being demoted or fired) does it become illegal. The victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can even be of the same sex.
If you are subjected to harassment, you need to take certain steps to protect your rights. For example, the law and your employer’s policies may require you to report, or “complain of” sexual harassment to human resources or managerial employees in order to hold the employer responsible for the harassment, unless the harasser is the manager, in which case reporting the harassment would be futile. We will help you figure out the right person within your company to whom you should report possible harassment. We can also work with you to outline your description of the harassing conduct to ensure that your communication with your employer meets the legal definition of “complaining of” harassment.
In addition to helping you report harassment, we can advise you as to other steps to take to protect yourself. These steps may include:
Documenting the harassment and all discussions about it with your employer
Preparing you to deal with the harasser if the harassment continues
Advising you about how to report future harassment to your employer, and
Monitoring your employer’s response to your complaint to make sure your employer does not retaliate against you.
When you have to deal with harassment at work, it can be difficult to think clearly about how to respond. An employee subjected to sexual harassment may be too emotional and confused to have a perspective on his or her circumstances needed to formulate a strong response. We can help you navigate the appropriate steps to take to protect yourself.
Your employer is required by law to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment and cannot take steps during the investigation that negatively affect your employment. Employers are prohibited by law from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment. Retaliation can take many forms and is not limited to disciplinary write-ups or termination (for example, your managers remove you from desirable projects or exclude you from meetings, events, or even social outings after you report harassment).
We will also describe the formal measures you can take to challenge sexual harassment. These include filing a charge of discrimination against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And, we can walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, as well as the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit against your employer if you are dissatisfied with its response to your complaint of sexual harassment. If you believe you have been sexually harassed and would like a free initial consultation contact us at (260) 240-4644.