Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Employ the full strength of the law and company protocols to shield yourself from sexual harassment during your employment.

Sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome sexual overture or behavior on the job that fosters a climate of intimidation, hostility, or offensiveness. This type of harassment can manifest in various forms, from persistent distasteful jokes to overt sexual assaults, and can affect employees of any gender or sexual orientation—making it a universally actionable offense.

Merrick Law Firm LLC wants you to know that there are robust state and federal regulations in place designed to safeguard workers from such harassment. These are akin to policies that prevent discrimination due to gender. At the federal tier, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act lays out clear prohibitions against harassment. Additionally, many states have enacted employment practice statutes that are even stricter than federal guidelines.

If you’ve encountered sexual harassment in your workplace, it’s imperative to take certain measures to protect your rights.

Directly Confronting the Harasser

Your first course of action could be directly asking the harasser to halt their inappropriate conduct. While this might be a challenging step, it’s often the most immediately effective method. This approach is especially viable if the harassment at hand involves inappropriate jokes, comments about personal appearance, or unseemly visual displays.

Assertively stating your desire for the behavior to cease is crucial as it makes clear that their actions are unwelcome; they must be so to fulfill the legal definition of sexual harassment. Furthermore, this serves as an essential preliminary move if you decide to take formal steps later on.

Should the harasser dismiss your verbal requests, or if direct confrontation feels unsafe or daunting, consider sending a clear written request to end the harassment, and retain a copy for your records.

If there is any fear for your personal safety or concern about escalating hostility from the harasser, raise the issue with a supervisor immediately.

Escalating the Complaint

Should the harassment persist post-confrontation, it is time to advance your complaint within your organization. Refer to the company’s policies, often found in the employee handbook, personnel policies, or manual. Adhere to these guidelines closely. If absent, enquire with your supervisor or HR about the process for lodging a complaint. Documentation is essential every step of the way (refer to documentation tips below).

Making a workplace complaint might be daunting, but the U.S. Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of using internal procedures to alert the company of harassment. Bypassing this step could significantly weaken any future legal claims.

Even without a formal procedure, you can make the company aware by filing a complaint with HR, notifying a supervisor, or contacting an executive.

Building a Strong Record of Your Claims

To build a robust case, document each instance of harassment meticulously. Save all inappropriate messages or items you receive and capture any derogatory materials displayed. If you observe offensive content in common areas, remove it safely and add it to your evidence, noting dates and any reactions.

Maintain an exhaustive journal detailing each incident—include participants, descriptions, dates, locations, and witnesses. This should be kept securely outside of work.

Secure a copy of your complete personnel file, particularly prior to filing a complaint. If any retaliatory actions occur post-complaint—such as demotions or negative evaluations—these records become pivotal evidence.

Pursuing Government Intervention Before Litigation

If internal remedies prove ineffective, consider approaching the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state’s fair employment agency. After all investigation and settlement avenues have been exhausted without resolution, you can file a civil lawsuit under Title VII or state laws.

Always lodge a complaint with the EEOC before initiating a federal lawsuit. Note timelines for filing with agencies and courts, as missing these deadlines can forfeit your case.

Merrick Law Firm LLC would like to remind you that the information provided herein is designed for educational purposes and should not replace professional legal counsel. Laws are in flux, and we urge you to consult with one of our attorneys for advice tailored to your particular situation.

Please reach out to Merrick Law Firm LLC at (312) 269-0200 for any inquiries or to schedule a consultation. Our team is dedicated to staunchly defending your rights within the workplace.

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Fill out the contact form or call us at (312) 269-0200 or (402) 951-9330 to schedule your consultation.

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