If someone is harassing you at work, every day can be stressful and upsetting. Being in this environment can take a tremendous toll on you mentally, financially and professionally. Thus, you should know what steps you can take to protect yourself and your right to a safe workplace free from harassment.
Identify the harassment
First, determine what constitutes harassment. Not liking someone or saying something mean will typically not rise to the level of harassment. On the other hand, the following actions may:
- Making offensive comments
- Displaying lewd pictures
- Physically assaulting someone
- Sharing explicit details about someone
- Inappropriate touching or gestures
When these actions are sexual in nature, unwanted, frequent and severe, they can be grounds for a sexual harassment claim.
Should you notice or experience the type of harassment noted above, be sure you document everything. You will want to keep track of:
- When the harassment occurred
- Who was involved
- Details of the incident or exchange
- How it impacted you
It’s not easy to remember these types of specific details days, weeks or months later, so keeping track of everything can be immensely helpful.
Make a complaint
At this point, you can choose to file a complaint. Review your employee handbook to determine if it has specific guidance on what you should do. If not, you can go to your manager, employer, or HR representative you feel most comfortable talking to. You may also notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
It is crucial to retain copies of any complaints you file, as well as details of your discussions. A helpful way to do this is to email a follow-up after a meeting, reiterating your statements and clarifying the next steps. Be sure to copy yourself on the correspondence.
Assess your legal options
If these measures are ineffective or do not appropriately address your complaints, the next step may be to take legal action against perpetrators. Filing a lawsuit can help you protect your job, secure compensation for damages and hold the relevant parties accountable.