Sexual harassment is an evolving force in the workplace, and it doesn’t always seem to fall easily within well-defined aspects of the law. So-called gray areas often make individual employees wary of stepping forward with complaints, but the truth is that you have a right to certain expectations in the workplace.
First, you have a right not to be sexually harassed. Forbes contributor Liz Ryan says that companies have to widen the conversation about sexual harassment to help protect employees. She says instead of just mandating the very basics under the law, companies should actively discuss sexual harassment policies so employees understand how they are protected and what to do about issues. She also says that companies should consider broaching borderline subjects, such as dating in the workplace.
You also have a right not to be retaliated against for reporting a possible issue of sexual harassment — even if that issue turns out to be a misunderstanding. If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, you should feel comfortable bringing it to a supervisor or other appropriate designee within the workplace for resolution. As Ryan says, communication is key to booting sexual harassment from professional spaces.
Unfortunately, not all companies and employees feel the same way; sexual harassment does occur, and so does retaliation. If you feel you’ve been retaliated against, including losing hours or your job, because you reported an issue of sexual harassment, you could have a claim under the law. Working with a legal professional can help you understand how the law protects you and what actions you can take regarding your situation.
Source: Forbes, “How To Prevent Sexual Harassment,” Liz Ryan, accessed Jan. 15, 2016