How to Deal with Sexual Harassment at Work : The rise of the #MeToo movement and higher-than-ever levels of general awareness about sexual assault and rape culture has helped many women all over the world feel safer and more comfortable, as well as contributing to much-needed advancements in terms of identifying abusers and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law.
Unfortunately, even with the progress that has been made in recent years, sexual harassment is still very much a problem in today’s world, with statistics showing that over 80% of women have experienced harassment in some form, at some stage of their lives. This can happen anywhere, but it’s a particularly common occurrence in the workplace.
At work, some people – often those in positions of power, but not always – can use their physical proximity and access to colleagues in order to harass them. This can occur to both men and women and be perpetrated by people of any gender too, and cases can vary in severity, with all kinds of potential effects.
Sexual harassment can be a one-off incident or relatively minor remark, or it can be a prolonged and serious chain of physical and mental abuse that can leave people feeling devastated, alone, and frightened to go to work each day. So what can you do if it happens to you? This guide will go through the simple steps for dealing with sexual offenses at work.
Step 1 – Identification
The first step towards dealing with sexual harassment at work is actually identifying whether or not sexual harassment is taking place, and this can be quite difficult, due to the somewhat vague definitions that exist regarding what constitutes harassment.
Many people might be harassed regularly and not even realize that they’re a victim until they learn more, so it’s worth knowing the full definition. In general, in order to qualify as sexual harassment, an act needs to offend someone, it needs to be seen as offensive to a reasonable person, and it needs to be pervasive in some form too.
Usually, if you’ve experienced some kind of comment, physical contact, or other action that had any kind of sexual nature and left you feeling uncomfortable, there’s a very high chance that sexual harassment has taken place.
Step 2 – The Procedure
Once a situation of sexual harassment has been identified, you’ll want to act quickly and correctly to deal with it. It’s often recommended to ask the person who is doing the harassing to stop or put it in writing that you want them to stop, as you can later use this as evidence if an investigation takes place.
However, depending on the nature of the problem and the person responsible for the harassment, you may want to go straight to filing an official complaint with management. If your manager is the one doing the harassing, you’ll need to find another manager or someone else in a position of authority to report the issue to.
Most companies should have a proper procedure for reporting sexual harassment too, and you can often find this online or in your own employee guidelines. Read through the policy and follow it correctly, providing as much detail as you can in your accounts, along with any evidence you have to reinforce your claims.
Step 3 – Legal Action
Once you’ve made your formal complaint and filed a report regarding the matter, it should be the responsibility of your employer to take the necessary action, conducting an investigation as needed, gathering evidence, and acting promptly to either warn or dismiss the offending employee.
If, however, your company fails to act promptly, dismisses the matter, or simply doesn’t seem to take any action or consider the matter to be worthy of their consideration, you may have to take things further. This is when you may want to contact your own attorney.
An experienced and qualified attorney will be able to guide you on the next steps to take, possibly bringing legal action against your employer for failing to respond adequately to your claims, as well as taking action against the person who committed the harassment.
Being the victim of sexual harassment can be frightening and intimidating in more ways than one, but it’s important to know that you don’t have to suffer alone or in silence. There are steps you can take and help that can be provided to you to deal with this matter and make the workplace safer for everyone.
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