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Male boss keeping hand on secretary for sexual harassment in the workplace

What To Do If Sexually Harassed At Work?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious crime that is punishable by US law. From 2018 to 2021, the EEOC received 27,291 charges of sexual harassment.

This statistic shows how common the crime has become in the US. You may also be being sexually harassed at work without realizing the different signs.

If you want to know what to do if sexually harassed at work, you don’t have to look any further. Let’s look at the signs of sexual harassment in the workplace and how to report it.

What Is Sexual Harassment In The Workplace?

A definition post explaining what is sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcoming sexual advances at your workplace. It may include uncomfortable comments about your clothing, body shape, and other physical aspects.

Inappropriate physical contact is also a form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Other examples of this injustice include:

  • Unwelcoming physical touch
  • Text messages with pornography or sexual content
  • Emails about sexual favors

As a victim of sexual harassment, you may feel embarrassed or fear for your safety at the workplace. This is why it is important to know what to do if sexually harassed at work to deal with the crime.

Am I Being Sexually Harassed At Work: 6 Signs To Lookout For

An infographic on the signs of sexual harassment in the workplace

Before you can understand what to do if sexually harassed at work, you must know the signs of this injustice.

So here are the top signs that will indicate you’re facing sexual harassment in the workplace:

1.   Comments On Your Body Or What You Wear

One of the top indicators of “Am I being sexually harassed at work” includes comment on one’s body. A colleague may pass comments on the curves of your body or other parts.

If someone makes fun of your body type or dresses, that also comes under sexual harassment. Such type of behavior can be degrading in the workplace and make you feel unsafe.

A worker may also sing a song with sexually explicit lyrics around you to make you uncomfortable. They may also dedicate that song to you outright.

These things are also considered as sexually harassing comments. Remember a colleague may try to cover up the harassment by saying they were just making a joke.

However, if something about the comments makes you uncomfortable, you must not ignore it. It is best to take action against that worker for sexually harassing you.

2.   Inappropriate Touching That Makes You Feel Uncomfortable

A clear indicator of sexual harassment in the workplace is inappropriate touching. Your colleague may brush against you closely in elevators to touch your hands or arms.

They may also stroke your hair inappropriately while helping you with a project in a conference room. Remember there is no fixed rule about body parts that one must be touching for it to be sexual harassment.

This means touching any body part that makes you uncomfortable will come under sexual harassment. A colleague hugging you unnecessarily and not letting you go is also an indicator of this crime.

You may warn a colleague that you don’t like being touched by them to ensure they don’t do it again. This is especially true if someone may be making you uncomfortable without realizing it.

For example, some people love physical touch and may hug others for every small thing. However, you may not prefer physical touch due to past trauma or personal preference.

Whatever the case, if anyone’s touch makes you uncomfortable you can let them know the first time. If the issue persists, you can take it as a form of sexual harassment in the workplace.

3.   Receiving Gifts, Emails, Or Texts With Sexual Content 

Sexual harassment may be in direct form with a worker touching you inappropriately. It can also be through indirect methods such as emails with sexual content.

A worker may also give you an inappropriate gift with sexual content such as a sex toy, lingerie, or other items. They may also write vulgar messages with sexual content on email or direct messaging apps.

You are not obliged to reply to sexual harassment messages in the workplace. It is also not required for you to warn the person before filing a complaint against them.

They may also send you sexually explicit images during work hours, which can make you uncomfortable. Remember to avoid handling the situation on your own.

Instead, it is better to file a complaint with the HR department in writing to ensure a complaint record is there. It is also important to avoid ignoring the messages, thinking that the person would stop on their own.

Taking action against sexual harassment in the workplace is significantly important.

You can learn about what to do if sexually harassed at work later in this post.

4.   You Are Being Asked For Sexual Favors In Exchange For Job Favors Or Promotions

Senior managers at workplaces have the authority to promote various workers on their performance. However, when a person tries to get sexual favors using their position, it comes under harassment.

Such behavior at workplaces is unacceptable and illegal by the law. This is why dealing with it immediately and appropriately is necessary to ensure you don’t suffer for long.

A few examples of a colleague asking for sexual favors in exchange for job benefits include:

  • Asking you to kiss them before promoting you to a senior role
  • Telling you to sleep with them to get a salary raise
  • A senior manager may want you to show specific body parts to you in exchange for assigning an important project to you

There are many other types of sexual favors that a manager may ask you before promoting you. Documenting such incidents is important for record-keeping and proving your harassment claim later.

Informing your supervisor is also a must before you deal with the perpetrator legally.

5.   Sharing Of Sexual Stories Or Jokes Around You

It is common for colleagues to joke around each other. However, there is a boundary that no one must cross. For instance, sexually explicit jokes in the workplace are a form of sexual harassment.

Stories about the sexual adventures of workers may also make you uncomfortable. These stories can create an unsafe environment for other workers.

If you notice a pattern of specific workers making sexual jokes around you, it is an indicator of sexual harassment. When such type of behavior occurs around you, be sure to speak up.

Let the people know that you don’t feel comfortable hearing such jokes or stories. This will make them aware their behavior is inappropriate and has to stop.

If the colleagues still don’t change their behavior, you can file an official complaint against them.

Consulting with a workplace discrimination lawyer may help you understand how to deal with harassment at your office.

6.   You Said No, But The Person Still Hits On You

Sexual harassment may also occur in the form of online stalking and persistent questions. For instance, a colleague may ask you out for a date. If you say no to them, they must avoid pressuring you to go out with them.

This means if the person still hits on you after getting a no, they’ll be engaging in sexual harassment. Such behavior is unacceptable in workplaces.

A few examples of a person hitting on you persistently may include:

  • Texting you with pick-up lines daily
  • Sending you flowers or cards to ask you out frequently
  • They may email you images of restaurants for date options
  • Your colleague may call you to a restaurant using work as an excuse for a date

If you encounter such a situation, it is best to call a lawyer right away for a consultation. They may let you know the actions you can take against that worker.

What to Do if Sexually Harassed at Work without Reporting

An infographic on what to do if sexually harassed at work without reporting

When learning what to do if sexually harassed at work, you must know how to deal with sexual harassment at work:

1.   Ask The Harasser To Stop 

The first thing you must do when facing harassment at work is tell the person to stop. Sometimes a colleague may make you uncomfortable with their jokes without realizing their behavior is inappropriate.

In such cases, telling them to stop may help them adjust their behavior and avoid uncomfortable situations again.

Warning a person will also keep you at ease because you can now differentiate innocent mistakes from harassment.

If the harasser knows their behavior is unwelcoming for you, but it still doesn’t change, you can file a complaint against them.

This is usually the first step of what to do if sexually harassed at work. It will prevent the harasser from arguing later that you never told them to stop.

2.   Write Everything Down To Collect Evidence 

After facing an uncomfortable incident, you must write down everything to start collecting evidence. Record things such as:

  • Time of incident
  • Date of incident
  • Name of the harasser
  • Details of the harassment
  • The exact site of the incident

Writing down these things for every incident is important until you decide whether you want to file a complaint with HR or take the legal route.

This will ensure when you’re asked about harassment incidents, details in your memory will be fresh.

Remember vague answers during an investigation by the company or government may put you at a disadvantage.

Having an exact record may also help with finding out what happened through CCTV footage if any.

3.   Talk To A Therapist

Sexual harassment can be devastating for your physical and mental health. It can affect your daily life by putting you in a depressive state. Your work performance may also be affected by the incident.

As per research, 16% of sexual harassment victims have confirmed compromised mental state due to the incident. Meanwhile, another 16% of victims have left their jobs due to harassment.

Talking to a therapist may help you maintain your mental health, while you try to fight against the issue at work. Conversing with a therapist may help you identify signs of harassment.

It can also help you understand that you’ve done nothing wrong and prevent you from blaming yourself.

4.   Check What Policies Your Company Has Against Harassers

There are two routes for people suffering from workplace sexual harassment. You may file a complaint within your company so that an internal investigation may help you get justice.

The second route you can opt for is the legal route. It is important to file an internal complaint before you take the other approach. That is because it will add to your evidence.

Knowing company policies against harassers may help you gain confidence about complaining. You will also learn the consequences the harasser will face and whether it will be adequate.

Understanding the policies will also help you know to whom you can file the harassment complaint.

5.   If It Gets Too Much, Take The Legal Route

Sometimes saying no to the harasser and filing an internal complaint against them may not work. This is especially true if the person has a high rank within the company.

Your company managers may also show hostility towards you after learning about the complaint. They may marginalize you by giving you petty tasks or forcing you to quit.

In such cases, it is best to take a legal route for dealing with the matter. You may consult a workplace discrimination lawyer about what to do if sexually harassed at work.

They can help you press charges with the EEOC to get justice through courts in Florida or other US states. This is also the definitive way to get rid of sexual harassment at your workplace.

What To Do If Sexually Harassed At Work: Steps For Reporting Sexual Harassment At Work

An infographic on how to report sexual harassment at work

Many people wonder about what to do if sexually harassed at work. If you’re thinking the same, here are the steps you must take:

1.   Report The Harassment To Your HR Or Boss

The first step of what to do if sexually harassed at work is reporting the incident.

Sexual harassment is a serious crime that must be reported to the HR department of your workplace. You may also directly file a complaint with your boss.

You should report the incident by submitting a written statement and record of the claim. The company will then start an official internal investigation to determine whether your complaint is true.

If the investigation results are in your favor, the company may fire, suspend, or demote the relevant employee. The exact punishment will depend on the company policies against harassers.

2.   You Can Also Report Anonymously

Some people are afraid of suffering from biased treatment once they report a sexual harassment incident. You may fear the company bosses won’t promote you or not renew your contract due to the reporting issue.

People also fear rumors about them getting spread in the company or industry. If that’s the case, you may report the incident anonymously by sending a written complaint to the HR department.

By the law, workplaces are required to investigate matters whether reported directly or anonymously. So you may bring the issue to notice without revealing your identity.

If the harasser has other victims at the same workplace, the investigating department may learn about it.

3.   File A Complaint With Your Government Agency

Filing a complaint with the government agency of your nation is another important step in what to do if sexually harassed at work.

The EEOC is the top organization in the US that handles complaints about workplace discrimination.

There are also fair employment practices agencies (FEPA) in different states of the US. You may also file a complaint with them for sexual harassment.

The organization will investigate the matter and a court hearing will be set to help you get justice. There are two main outcomes of an investigation by an agency.

If the EEOC finds no cause to believe that discrimination occurred, they will offer you a notice. You can use that notice to sue your workplace and pursue a lawsuit on your own.

Meanwhile, if the agency finds the cause of discrimination, they may try to resolve the matter directly with your employer.

4.   Talk To A Professional Lawyer To Help You Take Accurate Action

Talking to an attorney is necessary before or after filing official complaints. A lawyer will help you understand your legal rights as a sexual harassment victim.

They will prepare you for depositions and court hearings to ensure you behave appropriately. For instance, a lawyer may tell you which details to disclose in a witness statement and which to avoid.

Sometimes disclosing specific things may hurt your case because the defense attorney may distort the context. This is why hiring a lawyer will help you take proper action against your harasser.

5.   File A Lawsuit In Court

If you filed a complaint with the EEOC, you will have the right to file a case against your employer. This will be necessary if you filed a complaint at your workplace, but they didn’t take appropriate action.

A company that doesn’t follow its policies to help sexual harassment victims can be held liable in court. Your lawyer can file the lawsuit upon your insistence.

They may also let you know whether filing a case against your employer would be helpful or not.

6.   Make Sure You Meet All Deadlines For Accurate Reporting And Complaint Filing

The final thing you must ensure about what to do if sexually harassed at work is meeting deadlines. For instance, you can file a complaint with the EEOC 180 OR 300 days from the last harassment incident.

This deadline will vary from one state to another. If you don’t file a complaint within the set limit, you will have to wait until another harassment incident occurs with you.

Meanwhile, there is also a specific deadline for filing a lawsuit in court. When you file a complaint with the EEOC, the organization will offer you a suing notice.

Once you receive the notice, you will have specific days to file a case. If you don’t meet the deadline, you will lose the right to press charges against your employer.


What To Do If My Boss Is Sexually Harassing Me?

Saying no to your boss’s advances is important. You may also file a complaint with the HR department of your company or the EEOC. They will investigate the incident and help you get justice.

How Do You Advise A Colleague Who Is Being Sexually Harassed At Work?

You can advise a colleague to read company policies and file a complaint against their harasser. Helping them get justice by testifying as a witness may also be helpful if you were present at the time of harassment.

Can A Lawyer In Florida Help Me File A Sexual Harassment Complaint?

A lawyer can help you file a sexual harassment complaint once you receive the suing notice from a local or federal government agency such as FEPA or EEOC.

Contact An Attorney To Report Sexual Harassment In The Workplace 

Sexual harassment is a serious crime that must not be ignored in workplaces. Knowing what to do if sexually harassed at work is highly important.

The top thing you must do is consult a lawyer for a legal approach against the harasser. So contact us today to learn more about it.

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