How to Respond to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The first thing you need to know about sexual harassment in the workplace is that you are not alone. Sexual harassment happens in the workplace every day in the United States. It is often subtle, and it happens in every industry.
Fortunately, the law is on your side.
Sexual harassment generally falls into two categories:
Qui Pro Quo Sexual Harassment includes situations where a supervisor grants or withholds employment benefits, such as promotions, raises or continued employment, based on your willingness to go along with sexual advances, such as going out on a date or engaging in sexual favors.
Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment includes any form of sexual conduct that is so severe and pervasive that it interferes with your job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can come in many forms, some of which are subtle. The types of conduct that constitute sexual harassment include:
Sexual comments or jokes
Pressure to go out on a date
Displaying pornography or other sexual images
Sexual gestures, leering or other suggestive actions
Unwelcome physical touching
Sexual text messages or emails
Minor, isolated incidents usually do not rise to the level of sexual harassment. But a series of incidents that are frequent or severe can create a hostile work environment, especially if the company's management is aware of the conduct and does not take action to stop it.
If you are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you should take the following steps immediately:
1. Record what is going on. Your record can be in the form of notes that you write on your own or a report to your human resources office. If you are in the State of New York, you can also make secret audio recordings of conversations as long as you are a participant in the conversation. (In other words, you cannot hide a recording device in someone's office to record conversations while you are not present, but you may put a recording device in your pocket and record your conversation with them.)
2. Bring your evidence to an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to get advice and guidance. Sexual harassment cases often come down to he said/she said situations. An experienced sexual harassment lawyer can help you build your case.
Most of all, do not delay. The law contains very strict time limits for bringing your claims of sexual harassment and hostile work environment.
Do not continue to suffer through the harassment alone. Get an experienced sexual harassment lawyer on your side, and let the law protect you.
John Howley, Esq.