Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The legal definition of sexual harassment is “verbal, non-verbal, visual, or physical conduct which is unwelcome, and which is either of a sexual nature or based on an individual’s sex, that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.” Examples of this include, but are not limited to:
- Requesting sexual favors or dates
- Touching of a person’s body or clothing inappropriately
- Staring at an individual’s body
- Displaying or sharing emails, pictures, drawings, screensavers, posters, or videos of a sexual nature
Sexual harassment is against both state and federal law and should not be tolerated. By law, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment. An employer who receives a report of sexual harassment is required to take reasonable steps to promptly correct and prevent such incidents. If you believe you are being sexually harassed at work, you are encouraged to take the following steps.
- Tell the person involved that his/her actions are offending you, and ask them to stop. Do this both verbally and in writing.
- Create a journal of any incidents which have occurred, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses. Keep this journal safely at home rather than in your office.
- Research your employer’s grievance/complaint procedures and follow them accordingly.
- Additionally, report the harassment to your supervisor and/or Human Resources Department and let them know how you want the situation rectified. Do this both verbally and in writing. If you are a member of a union, you may wish to file a formal complaint through the union as well.
- If you plan to pursue your grievance through the court system, you must first file a formal harassment complaint through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or the fair employment agency in your state. Most importantly, you should not delay in doing this. Federal law gives you 300 days from the act of harassment to file a complaint, and your state law may allow as few as 180 days.