Sexual harassment is always a difficult topic to discuss, but unfortunately it still happens all too frequently in the workplace. If you have faced harassment or want to help someone you believe is being harassed, there are steps you can take. Title VII is federal regulation that protects anyone from sexual harassment. Here are the basics of what you need to know about harassment, how to stop it and how you are protected.
Defining sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There are generally two categories of sexual harassment. The first is quid pro quo. This type may be easier to pinpoint as it withholds some type of job benefit, or even employment itself, unless the victim submits to the harassment. The other major type is described as a hostile work environment. If repeated incidents of harassment lead a person to feel unsafe in his or her place of work, then it can be constituted as sexual harassment.
Generally speaking, most harassment cases involve repeat instances of harassing behavior. The law does allow for a claim for a single incident in “extreme circumstances”, but rulings are a bit inconsistent in this manner. However, a single instance of quid pro quo is often sufficient to support a claim of sexual harassment. If you are unsure if you have a case, consult with an attorney knowledgeable in employment matters.
Taking action against harassing behavior
If you feel you are being sexually harassed at work, there are a series of steps that can help you safely and effectively resolve the situation. First, if your company has established protocol for these situations, follow it. If there is no protocol or following it does not lead to a resolution, then this path is recommended:
- If you feel safe, talk to the harasser directly. Many offenders of harassment are unaware of how uncomfortable their victims are. If you can safely inform them, let them know exactly which behaviors and incidents have made you feel uncomfortable. It is important to be able to describe specific behaviors and draw clear lines.
- Talk to your supervisor and report the behavior. If your company has a human resources department, escalate the situation and speak to your representative. Make sure to document each step, from each instance of harassing behavior to what actions were taken to stop the behavior.
- File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The best way to empower the EEOC to help you is also to record instances of harassment. You do not need video evidence, but if you keep a diary or journal that logs each incident after it happens, that can assist an investigation.
Remember that Title VII also protects victims from retaliation. If you bring an issue forward and face any kind of retaliation, you are protected under the law.
Putting up with harassing behavior at work can be unbearable. It is important to know you are protected against sexual harassment and can take action to make sure it stops. Contact an experienced employment law attorney at The Law Firm of Jacobson & Rooks, LLC. We will help you get fair treatment and protect your rights.