How to Handle Sexual Harassment at Work

It never feels good to have someone invade your privacy, especially when it’s sexual. If you’re dealing with sexual harassment at work, there are things you can do. You don’t have to continue dealing with it and hope that it goes away. The following tips will help you put an end to the discomfort you’re feeling.

Start by Speaking to the Person Seriously

While it may have been all fun and games at first, it’s time to stop laughing, smiling and just waving the person away. You need to put your foot down. When the person invades your personal space or makes advancements towards you, simply state that you are not interested in him or her in that way. Let that person know you will not stand for it any longer, and you will take action if necessary.

Find Out if Others Are Dealing With the Same Issues

Often, people who sexually harass one person will do it to others as well. You can directly ask people you trust in your office, or go to HR to ask if there have been any complaints filed. Since these files are often confidential, you may not be able to find out who has filed the complaint. It’s just good to know that others have experienced what you are, so there is some support to your claims.

Report It to Your Supervisor

It’s best to go up the chain of command when you start taking action on sexual harassment. This means starting with your manager or supervisor. Your supervisor should immediately let you know what he or she will be doing to rectify the situation. If it seems as though you are not being taken seriously, or if days go by with no response, you will need to take it to the next level.

Go to Human Resources

If the advances continue after speaking to the person and your supervisor, it’s time to report the situation to human resources. Your HR manager should complete a written report about the situations you’ve had to deal with. You will be informed how the complaint will be handled and receive advice on what to do next. It’s best to stay away from the harasser as much as possible. You should also record each time you are harassed, so you can let your supervisor and HR know that it is still continuing.

Notify Senior Managers

If the harassment continues, you will have no other choice but to go to the top – senior management. You should let that person know you have spoken to the harasser, your supervisor and HR manager. You should also detail everything that you’ve been through, especially after you’ve filed the complaints with the appropriate individuals.

The senior manager should take immediate action by contacting your supervisor and HR manager. He or she should then let you know the plan of action for stopping the sexual harassment. If it doesn’t stop, you will need to start pursuing legal action.

Reach Out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

This government agency protects people just like you from sexual harassment in the workplace. It will step in and make sure your employer understands the seriousness of what is going on with you, and this usually gets people to take action on the situation. You will need to provide details to EEOC, such as your employer’s name, the harasser’s name and exactly what has happened. The EEOC representative will let you know what they find out and what is being done to take care of the situation.

Consider a Lawsuit

The sexual harassment shouldn’t have continued as far as it has, so you may want to consider filing a lawsuit. You may be able to receive compensation for lost wages if you were fired because of your sexual harassment complaints.

Words of Encouragement

  • It may seem as though just dealing with the sexual harassment is easier than filing a complaint, but don’t let it continue. The longer you let it go, the more you’ll suffer and that is not fair to you. You should work in a place that makes you feel comfortable and empowered.
  • Some sexual harassment victims believe they are at fault for what is happening to them, but that is completely wrong. You have not done anything to deserve this. Even if you started with laughing and joking around with the person, once you said stop, it should have stopped. You deserve respect, and if you don’t get it, you need to find a way for it to stop by following the tips mentioned above.
  • You do not have to quit your job because of sexual harassment. If it weren’t for the harassment, you would be perfectly happy in your job, right? That’s why when you can get it taken care of, everything will be OK. There’s no reason you should give up everything you’ve worked up to for this person. You deserve the position you’re in, so take advantage of the steps you must take to end the situation.
  • You may receive criticism for complaining about the sexual harassment. Some people may minimize what you’re going through. Don’t let that prevent you from taking action. They may be protecting the person or themselves because they do not want to fall prey to the consequences. You do what you have to do to take care of yourself. Everyone else will do what they have to do to take care of themselves.
  • Practice stress-relief techniques to keep you calm. Sexual harassment is highly stressful. If you don’t take care of your high stress levels, you’ll end up not only suffering mentally from the advances, you’ll also start to feel physically ill. After work, do something that makes you feel at peace such as getting a massage, exercising or engaging in a hobby you enjoy.

Sexual harassment is a serious offense. It’s never OK. Do something today. You will be glad you did once it’s all over and you can get back to concentrating on your career again.

Sarah Landrum

After graduating from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR, Sarah moved to Harrisburg to start her career as a Digital Media Specialist and a writer. She later founded Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers.

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