Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is an incredibly tough situation for the employee who is the victim of this and indeed for the workplace. This kind of situation is made even tougher without evidence, when we see that it is someone’s word against someone else’s. With this being said, if you have been on the receiving end of any kind of sexual harassment then it is absolutely essential that you do all that you can to bring it to light, and to try and resolve the situation. As tough this is going to be, there is absolutely no situation where you should ever accept any type of harassment.
We spoke to the team at Astor Legal, specialists in this field, to find out what you can do if you are the victim of such harassment.
The definition of sexual harassment as set out by the EEOC is as follows:
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Unfortunately it is very unlikely that someone is going to be able to catch the person who is harassing you in the act, and they may very well ensure that nobody is around for that very reason. This means then that a single incident is unlikely to make it stop which is why you have to document anything that happens. Even if this is just a passing remark, a quid pro quo offer, or perhaps something more sinister like physical contact. As soon as the event has happened, make a note of what happened, where and at what time, all of this information will help eventually.
Unless you are genuinely fearful for your safety, make a point of telling the person how unacceptable what it is that they are doing, and that any advances are completely unwelcome. When you say this, ensure that you are clear and direct, let them know how their actions make you feel and that you want them to stop.
Consult a Lawyer
Before you go to your boss or even to the police about what has been happening to you, it is first best that you consult with a lawyer. The reason for this is that if you really want the harassment too stop, you need to make a compelling case. So many harassment and rape claims disappear because of a lack of evidence or because it is one word against another, and you may run the risk of making an accusation which cannot be substantiated, which of course will make the situation worse.
If you feel that you genuinely have nowhere to turn and that you cannot prove what has been going on, it may very well be that you move on to somewhere else, no matter how unjust and unfair that feels.