Most companies have policies in place to promote a healthy working environment and prevent sexual harassment. But what happens when that policy is just words on a page?
Many worker protections do not apply to businesses with less than 12 or so employees, and businesses that small often do not have a human resources department. In these cases, the person being harassed is left to keep silent or go the CEO or owner.
To make things worse, there's much evidence that reporting sexual harassment claims often backfire against women. They aren't fired for it; that would be illegal. Instead, suddenly, there's a problem with their work performance and they're fired for that instead.
So what can you do if you are sexually harassed at work and you can't go to your employer?
- Tell the person to stop. Sometimes, this may be all you have to do. Make it clear that you find whatever it is offensive. Make a careful decision how to tell the offender. Whether you talk to them face to face, in a group, or with a phone call or email will make a big difference in how your request is received.
- Document everything from day one. Write it all down, even if you aren't reporting it immediately. Courts require that any harassment is "severe and pervasive" to take action, so you are going to need proof. Take photos or make copies of any harassing cartoons, drawings, jokes or materials in the office that are involved. Make sure you have a copy of the employee handbook and copies of your work evaluations and performance records.
- Tell friends and co-workers what happened. Posting on social media won't help your case, but talking to people and telling them what happened can help support your claim.
- Seek legal recourse. You can file a claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident, and you can do so in a way that doesn't reveal your identity if you need to be protected. You can also file a claim under state fair employment practice statutes. If your harassment crosses over from a civil claim to a criminal complaint, you need to make a police report as soon as possible.
If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.
Our attorneys have more than 35 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.