How Should I Report Sexual Harassment at My Job?

How Should I Report Sexual Harassment at My Job?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing problem. According to the EEOC, over 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed in 2018, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.  Pew Social Trends reports that 27% of men and 59% of women experienced harassment. More than half of women report sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. Experiencing harassment at work can be distressing, especially since the average worker spends significant time at work. Workers do not and should not have to put up with it. However, a survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 72%of workplace sexual harassment victims don’t report it. There are many reasons why a victim does not report the harassment. In some cases, they simply don’t know how to report it. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, start within your workplace to report the harassment before pursuing other remedies.

What is sexual harassment?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, job applicants and employees are protected under law from harassment in the workplace. However, some employees are unsure whether what they are experiencing actually is sexual harassment.

The key issue in sexual harassment is what the harassed person thinks or feels, not whether the person doing the harassing believes it to be harmless or even welcomed. It is one-sided in that only one person feels good about it. It may be offensive sexual behavior, either explicit or implicit. Victims feel intimidated, uncomfortable, degraded, or bad about themselves. Even if you do not immediately object or say “stop,” it still is harassment.   

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be subtle or blatant. The perpetrator can be a person of the opposite sex or the same sex.  It can come from supervisors, coworkers, or customers, and it comes in many forms. It may consist of acts or behaviors such as:

  • Physical behavior, including touching, unwanted sexual advances, and any type of sexual assault.
  • Sexual comments and jokes, whether or not you are the subject of the joke.
  • Displays of pictures, photos, drawings, etc., of a sexual nature, such as erotic calendars, computer backgrounds, or pornography.
  • Sending or sharing messages of a sexual nature, whether by text, emails, or an internal company messaging system.
  • Offensive comments on social media sites.
  • Unwelcome requests for sexual favors or dates
  • Sexual propositions
  • Facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements of a sexual nature
  • Staring or leering at your body
  • Inappropriate comments about someone’s body or appearance
  • Intrusive questions about your private or sex life
  • Sexual innuendo or gender-based or sexual orientation-based objectionable language
  • Gossiping about someone’s personal relationships or sex life
  • Physically blocking a person’s movement

How to report sexual harassment in the workplace

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to report the issue for your own protection and to prevent it from happening to anyone else in the future. You may feel intimidated, nervous, or daunted, but you must speak up. Unless you feel unsafe, if a coworker has done something, like name call or violates your personal space too often, you may wish to send them an email clearly stating your boundaries and asking them to respect those boundaries. However, if the email has no effect, the email is proof that you tried to resolve the issue before reporting the problem.

Check your employer’s sexual harassment policy

All employers must have a sexual harassment policy in place. This policy can help you understand how your workplace handles harassment. Take note of information concerning how and to whom you should make your complaint, such as your supervisor, manager, human resources person, union representative, or employer. The person who will be investigating your complaint should be impartial and not have preconceived opinions about you or your harasser. Your employer probably gave you a copy of their sexual harassment policy when you were hired, but you may not have read it carefully. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with it in light of your current situation. 

Make notes

As your complaint moves forward, there will be many questions. At some point, you will probably meet in person with the employer or their representative so that they can ask follow-up questions. It helps to have notes on any unwelcome and unwanted behavior of a sexual nature.  Avoid vague accusations. When you report sexual harassment, include as many details as possible. If possible, include:

  • What was said or done.
  • The date(s) it happened.
  • How it made you feel.
  • Others victims of the behavior.
  • Anyone who may have witnessed the behavior.

Put your complaint in writing

Write the details of your complaint in a letter, email, or another document, and always keep a copy. Even if you have discussed the matter with a supervisor or other appropriate person, you need to create a paper trail. Then send the complaint to the person listed as responsible in the sexual harassment policy. In the event that this person is the one you are complaining about, submit your complaint to somebody else in a senior position of authority.

Workplace retaliation is illegal

If possible, all claims of harassment should be handled and resolved in the workplace. You should receive the opportunity to fully explain your complaint and the resolution you want from it, for example, if you want an apology from the perpetrator or further action from the company.

Many employees are reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs or positions. Many are not fully aware of their legal options. In some cases, even if the employee reports the harassment, the employer may stall, ignore or deny the complaint. The employer may retaliate against the employee by termination or failure to hire, reduced hours, a demotion, or a decrease in pay. Under EEO laws, employers may not retaliate against job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination. This includes sexual harassment.

Contact an attorney

How Should I Report Sexual Harassment at My Job?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing problem. According to the EEOC, over 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed in 2018, a 14 percent increase from the previous year.  Pew Social Trends reports that 27% of men and 59% of women experienced harassment. More than half of women report sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. Experiencing harassment at work can be distressing, especially since the average worker spends significant time at work. Workers do not and should not have to put up with it. However, a survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 72%of workplace sexual harassment victims don’t report it. There are many reasons why a victim does not report the harassment. In some cases, they simply don’t know how to report it. If you’re experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, start within your workplace to report the harassment before pursuing other remedies.

What is sexual harassment?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, job applicants and employees are protected under law from harassment in the workplace. However, some employees are unsure whether what they are experiencing actually is sexual harassment.

The key issue in sexual harassment is what the harassed person thinks or feels, not whether the person doing the harassing believes it to be harmless or even welcomed. It is one-sided in that only one person feels good about it. It may be offensive sexual behavior, either explicit or implicit. Victims feel intimidated, uncomfortable, degraded, or bad about themselves. Even if you do not immediately object or say “stop,” it still is harassment.   

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be subtle or blatant. The perpetrator can be a person of the opposite sex or the same sex.  It can come from supervisors, coworkers, or customers, and it comes in many forms. It may consist of acts or behaviors such as:

  • Physical behavior, including touching, unwanted sexual advances, and any type of sexual assault.
  • Sexual comments and jokes, whether or not you are the subject of the joke.
  • Displays of pictures, photos, drawings, etc., of a sexual nature, such as erotic calendars, computer backgrounds, or pornography.
  • Sending or sharing messages of a sexual nature, whether by text, emails, or an internal company messaging system.
  • Offensive comments on social media sites.
  • Unwelcome requests for sexual favors or dates
  • Sexual propositions
  • Facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements of a sexual nature
  • Staring or leering at your body
  • Inappropriate comments about someone’s body or appearance
  • Intrusive questions about your private or sex life
  • Sexual innuendo or gender-based or sexual orientation-based objectionable language
  • Gossiping about someone’s personal relationships or sex life
  • Physically blocking a person’s movement

How to report sexual harassment in the workplace

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to report the issue for your own protection and to prevent it from happening to anyone else in the future. You may feel intimidated, nervous, or daunted, but you must speak up. Unless you feel unsafe, if a coworker has done something, like name call or violates your personal space too often, you may wish to send them an email clearly stating your boundaries and asking them to respect those boundaries. However, if the email has no effect, the email is proof that you tried to resolve the issue before reporting the problem.

Check your employer’s sexual harassment policy

All employers must have a sexual harassment policy in place. This policy can help you understand how your workplace handles harassment. Take note of information concerning how and to whom you should make your complaint, such as your supervisor, manager, human resources person, union representative, or employer. The person who will be investigating your complaint should be impartial and not have preconceived opinions about you or your harasser. Your employer probably gave you a copy of their sexual harassment policy when you were hired, but you may not have read it carefully. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with it in light of your current situation. 

Make notes

As your complaint moves forward, there will be many questions. At some point, you will probably meet in person with the employer or their representative so that they can ask follow-up questions. It helps to have notes on any unwelcome and unwanted behavior of a sexual nature.  Avoid vague accusations. When you report sexual harassment, include as many details as possible. If possible, include:

  • What was said or done.
  • The date(s) it happened.
  • How it made you feel.
  • Others victims of the behavior.
  • Anyone who may have witnessed the behavior.

Put your complaint in writing

Write the details of your complaint in a letter, email, or another document, and always keep a copy. Even if you have discussed the matter with a supervisor or other appropriate person, you need to create a paper trail. Then send the complaint to the person listed as responsible in the sexual harassment policy. In the event that this person is the one you are complaining about, submit your complaint to somebody else in a senior position of authority.

Workplace retaliation is illegal

If possible, all claims of harassment should be handled and resolved in the workplace. You should receive the opportunity to fully explain your complaint and the resolution you want from it, for example, if you want an apology from the perpetrator or further action from the company.

Many employees are reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs or positions. Many are not fully aware of their legal options. In some cases, even if the employee reports the harassment, the employer may stall, ignore or deny the complaint. The employer may retaliate against the employee by termination or failure to hire, reduced hours, a demotion, or a decrease in pay. Under EEO laws, employers may not retaliate against job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination. This includes sexual harassment.

Contact an attorney

If reporting your complaint proves to be unsuccessful, you may wish to consult an employment attorney who will know the law and can guide you through the legal process. You may be entitled to compensation and other legal remedies, even if an employer dismisses sexual harassment complaints as unimportant or not worth investigating. For more information, please contact the experienced, dedicated attorneys at Perkins Asbill. Call 916-446-2000 or contact us online.