Unchecked harassment is likely to escalate
Embarrassment, fear, shame … these are only a few of the upsetting emotions people may feel after they’ve been sexually harassed at work.
Harassment can be hard to talk about. In fact, that’s why many victims don’t. They remain quiet, hoping that the situation will blow over.
The problem is, harassers who get away with inappropriate behavior are likely to harass again. If the perpetrator doesn’t come after you, he or she might target one of your coworkers.
But remember: everyone deserves to feel safe at work.
Keep in mind, federal law offers legal protection from retaliation after you’ve made a complaint about harassment or discrimination. Know that as soon as you voice your concerns, you are generally qualified for this protection.
Let’s take a look at some common harassment scenarios and then discuss what you should do.
It’s Not Your Fault
People often don’t report harassment because they fear that they will be blamed for inviting the behavior. “Maybe he thought you liked him? I’ve seen you flirt with him before …”
Sometimes companies will defend the harasser or blow off the complaint. “Oh, that’s just the way John is. He didn’t mean anything by it.”
These kinds of scenarios can be extremely frustrating. Keep in mind that some companies would rather brush uncomfortable situations under the rug than deal with them.
Plus, making you feel like the situation is your fault or that you imagined it is a lot easier than launching an investigation. That’s especially if the perpetrator is a high performer, a manager, or is buddy-buddy with the boss.
If your employer dismisses or ignores your sexual harassment complaint, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney right away.
What the Law Says
Unlawful harassment may take many different forms, and it may include a variety of players.
According the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
- sexual harassment of either employees or job applicants is illegal under federal law
- harassers or victims may be male or female
- the harasser and victim may be of the opposite sex or of the same sex
Some common types of harassment may be inappropriate touching, lewd comments, or overt sexual invitations.
However, some harassment may be much more subtle. For example, if a coworker continually steers conversations toward sex or shares pornographic images, that may be considered sexual harassment.
In addition, making offensive remarks about a gender as a whole may also be harassment, e.g., a supervisor continually states that women shouldn’t do certain kinds of work.
When Teasing Crosses the Line
The law does not, however, protect against offhand comments, simple teasing, or one-time incidents that aren’t very serious.
So what’s the line between teasing and harassment? According to the EEOC, harassment is generally considered unlawful when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
Contact Us Now for a Free Consultation
If you feel you’ve been sexually harassed at work, don’t suffer in silence.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.