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What can you do about workplace sexual harassment?

Despite the fact that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, it still remains a serious problem in America. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received over 7,500 sexual harassment claims in 2018, up 14% from 2017.

Workplace sexual harassment takes two forms: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. In its quid pro quo form, it occurs when your supervisor or someone else who has authority over you and your job demands sexual favors from you in return for such things as promoting you, giving you a good review, refraining from demoting or firing you, etc.

In its hostile work environment form, it occurs when another employee, or even a customer or vendor, targets you for such things as the following:

  • Unwelcomed sexually demeaning and/or suggestive comments
  • Unwelcomed requests for dates
  • Unwelcomed touching
  • Unwelcomed jokes or pranks
  • Unwelcomed gestures

Keep in mind that to rise to the level of hostile work environment, the unwelcomed behavior(s) must persist over time and also must negatively affect your ability to do your job.

What to do

LegalVoice.org suggests you do the following if someone sexually harasses you at work:

  • Tell the person(s) to stop harassing you.
  • Report the harassment to your supervisor or someone in your company’s human resources department or on your company’s management team.
  • Keep a written record of the harassment, including who perpetrated it, when and where it occurred, its nature, any witnesses other than you who observed it, and how it made you feel.

If your employer fails to stop the harassment, talk to an attorney. (S)he likely will help you file a claim with the EEOC, which you must do prior to filing an actual lawsuit. Once the EEOC sends you a right-to-sue notice, you can file a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer.

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