Sexual harassment is a serious problem at many American workplaces. Here are six solutions for how to deal with harassment or discrimination if and when it arises.
1. Understand what constitutes sexual harassment.
Any number of acts can be construed to be sexual harassment, including:
• Unwelcome sexual advances at work
• Implicit or explicit tying of terms of your employment to your response to sexual advances
• An employer or colleague cultivating a hostile or intimidating environment
Not only do you have the right to work in an environment in which you won’t be sexually harassed, but you also have the right to claim damages if your employer retaliates against you in any way for complaining about harassment.
2. Speak up.
One great way to protect yourself – legally and emotionally – from harassment is to express your feelings to colleagues and supervisors. If a co-worker harasses you (for instance, by sending you sexually explicit e-mails or telling raunchy jokes), tell your supervisor. If a boss harasses you, contact someone in the HR department. If your HR board doesn’t help (or doesn’t exist), contact your city’s labor board.
3. Write things down.
After a disturbing incident, the last thing most of us want to do is dwell on what happened. Write down your account right after an incident occurs. After all, memory can distort over time, and the longer you wait to write down details, the less weight your story may ultimately have. To that end, time and date stamp your journal. And don’t leave the journal at work where whoever is harassing you may be able to find and destroy it.
4. Get corroborating evidence, if possible.
If a co-worker saw you being harassed, ask him or her to write down his/her account. If your harasser sent you a weird e-mail or left a disturbing voice message, archive that evidence. The more physical manifestations of the inappropriate behavior you can produce, the stronger your potential case.
5. Let go of self blame.
Often, victims of harassment or discrimination blame themselves. A harasser may make fun of your clothes, your looks, or your character and hit close to home. As a result, you may come to believe that the harasser is partially justified. Remember: hostile, offensive, or intimidating remarks or actions are not legal and are not your fault.
6. Get help from sexual harassment and discrimination specialists.
Don’t fight this battle on your own. Resources abound for victims of harassment and discrimination. The National Women’s Law Center (202-588-5180), the U.S Department of Labor Women’s Bureau (1-800-827-5335), the National Association of Working Women (1-800-522-0925), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1-800-669-4000) all provide ample resources.
If you need legal assistance, consider the firm of Joseph & Kirschenbaum. Our attorneys focus on sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation law, and we have won numerous landmark decisions. Find out more about our firm at www.jhllp.com, or dial (212) 688-5640 to schedule a free confidential consultation.