One of the most difficult and stressful employment situations involves an employee who is experiencing sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can range from inappropriate comments from a co-worker to outright physical assault. Both males and females can be subjected to sexual harassment and there is no clear line from where flirting and banter crosses over into illegal harassment. The Courts have generally found illegal sexual harassment in two circumstances: 1) when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or 2) when it results in the victim being terminated, demoted or some other adverse action.
So with that background, what should you do if you are being sexually harassed at work?
- The first step is to try and thoroughly document the harassment. Retaining voicemails, text messages, e-mails, or making date-stamped notations in personal emails are good ways of documenting inappropriate conduct.
- The next step is to try and determine the appropriate person in your workplace to whom you can report the harassment. If your company has an employee handbook or a company policy on discrimination and harassment, it will usually identify a hotline number or the appropriate individual in the workplace. If it does not identify a person, make sure to inform your supervisor or if that is not possible someone higher in the company.
- If the conduct involves your direct supervisor, you will need to go someone higher in the company or go ahead and consult an employment attorney.
- After reporting the incident, there should be an investigation by the company and steps taken to prevent further harassment. It is illegal for the company to retaliate against you for reporting sexually offensive conduct and it is the company’s responsibility to prevent if from happening again.
- If the situation is not addressed properly or you suffer retaliation, you have likely reached the point where you need to proceed with contacting an attorney or by filing an EEOC charge of gender discrimination and harassment.
- The EEOC will then investigate to determine whether the company has violated Federal law.
- Once the EEOC has completed its investigation, you have the option of filing a lawsuit if you are unsatisfied with the resolution.
My firm receives calls throughout Alabama from employees who have been sexually harassed. While these situations are extremely stressful and can feel overwhelming, they can be resolved with the help of an experienced employment attorney. If you questions about how to handle these types of issues, please contact me at (205) 588-0699 for a free consultation.