Sexual harassment cases are one of the most difficult things that employees may deal with at their place of work. It is common for the victims of sexual harassment to feel powerless and unable to do anything to change their situation for the better. The witnesses of sexual harassment may feel caught between a rock and a hard place, feeling empathetic towards the victim and yet afraid that if they speak up, they will be putting themselves or their jobs at risk. It is a tough situation for anyone, and yet there are steps you can take to empower yourself and others to take a stand and deal with sexual harassment in a healthy, safe and productive manner. The laws, rules and regulations that surround sexual discrimination and harassment are put in place to protect employees from the devastating effects of sexual harassment at many levels. Here are some of the actions you can take against sexual harassment, whether you are the victim or simply an onlooker.
What to Do in the Face of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment comes in many different forms. It can be subtle or obvious, ongoing or a one-time occurrence, severe or moderate. All varieties of physical and verbal sexual harassment should be taken seriously, as they can often progress from not-so-serious to very severe in a short amount of time. The nature of the sexual harassment case you are dealing with will determine how you go about addressing it. Here are some of the steps you can take, in order from most casual to most formal.
• Speak out against the harasser: This is often the simplest and most direct way to deal with sexual harassment. By getting to the root cause of it and addressing the provoker, you will make your message loud and clear that the behavior in question is not acceptable. While in some cases this verbal warning is enough to make the harasser stop, many cases escalate from this point on.
• Report the harassment to the appropriate people: Taking it to the next level, you may choose to take the harassment incident(s) to a supervisor, human resources department or internal social case worker. Make sure to follow exactly whatever company policies or procedures are in place so that your case will be treated with the appropriate timeliness and seriousness. Your company should be able to handle the sexual harassment charge from then on, either by dismissing or counseling the harasser, separating the harasser and the victim, or another method.
• File a charge with your state human or civil rights establishment: This next step in dealing with sexual harassment is a major one. You will contact the governing agency in your state which deals with issues of workplace discrimination and harassment, which is usually the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This enforcement entity will typically strive to resolve the claim with your employer. If this fails, they may advise that you bring a lawsuit against the company.
• Take legal action: Lastly, the most dramatic step you can take in dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace is filing a lawsuit against your employer. While this type of litigation may seem drastic, it is sometimes the only procedure that gets results, as long as the three above steps failed to resolve the problem. Victims of sexual harassment often file lawsuits against an employer for physical or emotional suffering, and they may be able to get their jobs back, receive lost wages and acquire damage costs for the events that occurred.
If you are faced with sexual harassment in the workplace, remember that there are steps you can take to resolve the issues very simply or at a more formal level. Following the protocol above, you will be empowered to take action against this violation of human rights.
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