How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

December, 2019

Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace is frustrating, stressful, uncomfortable, and will likely make you dread going into work every day. Of course, if you are being sexually harassed, you want it to stop immediately. Unfortunately, you may not know how to make that happen. It is important to know the steps to take when you are the victim of this form of harassment. Taking the proper steps will help you collect the evidence you need to prove it, and help you understand how to report the harassment. 

Check Your Employee Handbook

Most employers have an employee handbook and within it, there should be procedures outlined for reporting sexual harassment. The handbook will likely state that you should report the harassment to the Human Resources department, or your manager or supervisor. If the harasser is your manager or supervisor, it may indicate that you should report the harassment to their superior. Whatever procedures the handbook outlines, you will need to follow them to the best of your ability.

If there is no employee handbook, try to determine if the company still has a policy or procedure regarding sexual harassment. If you file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, it will be important to show that you have already taken some of the necessary steps. 

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is a good idea to consult an attorney before speaking with the Human Resources Department.

Document the Harassment 

When filing a complaint involving sexual harassment, you will have to substantiate your claim with evidence. Be sure to keep all emails, text messages, voicemails, Instagram messages, social media posts, and communication received in any other form from the harasser. It is important that you keep the same telephone, laptop, or computer that you received the message on. Try to keep track of dates, times, the behavior of the harasser, and potential witnesses who may have seen or heard something. Also, keep track of any complaints you make to the Company and document your complaints in writing.

Beware of Retaliation 

There are many laws that make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees when they file a complaint. Unfortunately, that does not mean it does not happen. If a supervisor demotes you, fires you, or otherwise takes a materially adverse employment action against you after reporting the sexual harassment, you may have a separate retaliation complaint against them. 

Follow Up on Actions Being Taken 

After you report the sexual harassment, your employer should take action as soon as possible. They should investigate the matter and discipline the harasser in a manner that is commensurate with the offense. If no action is taken, the employer does not follow up with you,  the harasser is disciplined but only lightly, or you find out that others have previously complained about this person, it is time to take your complaint further. This is a good time to contact an attorney who can help you determine your options and the next best move.

File a Complaint With the EEOC, the OCRC, or Both 

If your employer does nothing to discipline the harasser or does not take your complaint seriously, you must file a complaint with the EEOC and/or the OCRC. It is advisable to speak to an employment attorney before filing a complaint, as a lawyer can help file the charge and assist you when meeting with the EEOC or OCRC investigator. 

Contact Our Ohio Employment Attorneys

 If you are being sexually harassed at work and your employer has not taken action, it is important to speak to one of our Columbus employment attorneys as soon as possible, because sexual harassment charges and lawsuits must be filed within certain timeframes. At Marshall & Forman, LLC, we will help hold employers and your harasser accountable and will walk you through every step of the process. Call us today or contact us online to meet with one of our attorneys and learn more about how we can help.