Reporting sexual harassment can be a nerve-wracking process, and you may be fearful of retaliation. What are the risks involved? And how can you prepare your case before reporting the harassment to HR?
Is It Sexual Harassment?
You may be enduring mistreatment at work, but you may wonder: Is it sexual harassment? Sexual harassment constitutes a form of gender discrimination that may include many different types of actions, including:
- Sexual advances that are unwelcome
- Requests for sexual favors
- Offensive remarks about gender
- Stereotyped comments about women
- Verbal or physical actions that are sexual in nature
Sexual harassment includes actions that are unwelcome and so severe or pervasive that it creates a “hostile work environment.” These actions must be frequent and reoccurring. Before reporting sexual harassment, you should consider if the conduct negatively affects a “term, condition, or privilege” of your work. If you are unable to ignore the sexual harassment, then it is likely illegal. Learn more about what constitutes sexual harassment here.
If It’s NOT Sexual Harassment
Although many actions constitute sexual harassment, it’s important to identify what is not sexual harassment when reporting sexual harassment at work. Mildly offensive comments that are isolated, or do not happen repeatedly, may not be considered sexual harassment. They may still be unwelcome and against your company policy. Thus, you should still consider reporting them to your employer.
Will I Have to Quit My Job If I Report the Situation?
You may want to remove your self from the situation if you are experiencing sexual harassment, and this is understandable. But leaving your job could weaken your chances of being able to pursue a legal claim against your employer for allowing the situation to continue. If you quit, you will be making the situation easier for your employer. They will not have to address the situation and fix it. Instead, they will allow you to go away and ignore the situation.
If you are experiencing negative treatment from a coworker, you have protections under the law. By reporting sexual harassment, you can protect yourself and anyone else who may be a target of the treatment as well.
In severe situations, your quitting fall under the “constructive discharge” category. That means that your employer technically fired you by failing to provide a safe and reasonable working environment free of sexual harassment. However, in many situations, it is best if you’ve taken action by reporting sexual harassment prior to leaving your employer. If you report sexual harassment after you leave your job, your employer may say that you did so simply to gain benefits from a former employer.
What Can You Do to Fight Sexual Harassment?
The most important thing you can do to fight against sexual harassment is to document the actions being taken against you. You may obtain pictures, videos, and statements from coworkers. You may also keep a daily log in your personal email of the sexual harassment you are experiencing. Do not use your work email, because your employer will likely have access to those messages. By sending an email to yourself, you are time-stamping the events that occur to you.
If You Are Considering Reporting Sexual Harassment, Speak to an Employment Law Attorney
Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace can be stressful, and you may be unsure of what to do. The first step you take should be to call an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. An attorney can help you file a complaint with your company and guide you through the process of reporting sexual harassment. Call Rubin Law Corporation today to learn more about how we can help you.