Sexual harassment in the workplace is a big problem, but it might not be what you’re thinking. Imagine that you’re going about your day, minding your own business, when you receive an email from a co-worker. In the email is a joke—a joke that makes you uncomfortable because of its sexual nature.
Is that considered sexual harassment?
The question of where to draw the line can be confusing, especially if you feel you have no power in the situation. You might feel you have no power for a variety of reasons—perhaps you’re the only woman at your company, maybe you were just hired and you don’t want to make waves. But one thing is for sure: sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal.
Want to learn how to recognize and deal with sexual harassment at work? Here’s how.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
No matter who commits it—from a boss, to a supervisor, to a seasonal employee—sexual harassment is unacceptable, in the workplace or anywhere. In the workplace especially, it can create a hostile environment that keeps you from achieving your potential. Explicitly inappropriate advances aren’t the only form that sexual harassment in the workplace can take. In fact, there are many examples:
- Touching without consent
- Telling sexually explicit jokes
- Sharing sexual experiences
- Asking about someone’s sex life, including asking about sexual orientation
- Making suggestive comments about appearance or clothing
- Commenting on or discriminating against sexual identity or gender identity
Many more forms of sexual harassment exist. In short, any action with a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable can be considered sexual harassment.
How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
If you are the victim of sexual harassment at your place of work, you can take action to protect yourself. First, you must preserve any evidence of the harassment. This can include texts, emails, statements from witnesses to the sexual harassment, notes from meetings with your employer or human resources department, and copies of any complaints that you have made. Preserving these pieces of evidence will help you prove your case should you decide to move forward with litigation.
One thing to note about filing a sexual harassment complaint: employees who believe that they are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace must file a charge within 180 days with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Furthermore, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for filing a claim. Retaliation can include firing, demotion, switching an employee’s shifts to undesirable or inconvenient times, scheduling employees for fewer hours per week, and many other actions.
If your employer does retaliate against you, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them. Want to learn whether your case is worth pursuing? Get in touch with Pacin Levine Attorneys at Law today to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys. We’ll work with you to get you the result that you desire, whether it’s getting your job back or compensation for the retaliation.