What can you do if you get harassed at work?

What You Can Do

When you are deciding what to do, remember that every situation is different.There is no one best thing to do. You should always report the sexual harassment to your employer. You then have the option to use your company’s sexual harassment complaint process, file a charge with a state or federal agency, and/or go to court.

It is important to talk with a lawyer or legal services organization like Equal Rights Advocates to discuss your choices (see “Resources”).They can help you to understand your choices, their benefits and risks as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

Say “No” Clearly

Tell the person that his/her behavior offends you. Firmly refuse all invitations.If the harassment doesn’t end promptly, write a letter asking the harasser to stop and keep a copy.

Write Down What Happened

As soon as you experience the sexual harassment, start writing it down.Write down dates, places, times, and possible witnesses to what happened.If possible, ask your co-workers to write down what they saw or heard, especially if the same thing is happening to them.Remember that others may (and probably will) read this written record at some point. It is a good idea to keep the record at home or in some other safe place.Do not keep the record at work.

Report the Harassment

Tell your supervisor, your human resources department or some other department or person within your organization who has the power to stop the harassment. If possible, tell them in writing. Keep a copy of any written complaint you make to your employer.It is very important that you report the harassment because your employer must know or have reason to know about the harassment in order to be legally responsible for a co-worker, client or customer’s actions. Even if your harasser was your supervisor, you may need to show that you reported the harassment to your employer or give a good reason why you didn’t.

Start a Paper Trail

When you report the sexual harassment to your employer, do it in writing.Describe the problem and how you want it fixed.This creates a written record of when you complained and what happened in response to it. Keep copies of everything you send and receive from your employer.

Review your Personnel File

It is your right to see your personnel file.If you work for a private employer, in certain states including California, you have the right to request and receive copies of everything in your file that you have signed.

Use the Grievance Procedure at Work

Many employers and schools have policies for dealing with sexual harassment complaints. You may be able to resolve the problem through this process.To find out your employer’s policies, look in your employee manual/personnel policies and/or speak to a human resources officer. It is important to follow your employer’s procedures.

Involve your Union

If you belong to a union, you may want to file a formal sexual harassment complaint through the union and try to get a shop steward or other union official to help you work through the grievance process. Get a copy of your union’s grievance policy and see if it discusses the problems you are experiencing. If you use your union’s grievance procedure, you must still file a complaint with a government agency if you want to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.

File a Discrimination Complaint with a Government Agency

If you want to file a lawsuit in federal or state court, you must first file a formal sexual harassment complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission your state’s fair employment agency. If you are a federal employee, follow federal guidelines on how to lodge a sexual harassment complaint.

File a lawsuit

After you file a formal complaint with the your state’s fair employment agency, you can also consider filing a lawsuit.You can sue for money damages, to get your job back, and you can also ask the court to make your employer change its practices to prevent future sexual harassment from occurring.

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