Sexual harassment has been getting a lot of attention in recent years because of the #MeToo movement. Victims of sexual harassment are now coming out to tell their story on how they were harassed by their co-workers and bosses.
Before this movement gained prominence, victims of sexual harassment could not report suspects easily. They often fear the possibility that their harassers will come back at them. They also fear being discriminated for being unable to report what happened to them.
When a person finds themselves in this predicament, they must be able to identify it and report it at once. They must also know the current policies of the company about filing a complaint.
Each case of sexual harassment is unique from the other and it is crucial you know which type of case you have and how to respond to it.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment involves any requests involving all forms of harassment, unwanted sexual favours and advances. It also includes gender harassment, especially those directed on pregnancy. Usual suspects of sexual harassment include coworkers, bosses and clients.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can happen in two different ways:
- Hostile environment harassment occurs in a hostile and abusive work environment.
- Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a worker is forced to accept the unwanted sexual advance in exchange for an employment perk.
How Can You Deal With It?
Whichever form of harassment you experience or see, you should react immediately.
Here’s how you can do it easily:
– Know when to talk about it
While joking and banters about sexual topics are common in the workplace, there is a limit to how these jokes can go.
If a co-worker makes a comment or acts in a way you feel uncomfortable, you should immediately tell them to stop. The same should also be said when the comment is directed to you personally.
Sometimes, just saying that the comment was unwise and making you uncomfortable will get your co-worker to stop. You can also say you will report them to your head for making such a vulgar comment.
If they continue regardless, you need to take action.
– List down what they are saying or doing
When you are using your smartphone or home computer, write down what happened during the harassment.
List down the date and location, as well as the witnesses who also saw it. You can also approach the witnesses if they can write down their own statement about what happened.
Make sure to check it and see if it is accurate. Save the file or store the written document in a safe place.
– Gather your records
Harassers would try to use everything just to get you to react to their taunts. Sometimes, they may criticize your work performance. To defend yourself from these taunts, use your work records against them.
You can ask your superiors or references to show them that you are performing well. If you can’t get them, you can list down what was in it.
– Report to HR or your supervisor
When you are harassed or feel as if you are being harassed, you should report it immediately to your team leader or supervisor. Your employer needs to know the behaviour of its staff and address the issue of their staff’s behaviour.
Make sure to bring your evidence and other data to prove your report. If you do not have the evidence on hand, you can still prompt for an investigation when you report it to your team leader.
After reporting to the team head, you should report to HR.
Make sure to report the harassment immediately because it may continue. Ask witnesses to support your report and ask the victim to speak out as well.
– Report to Senior Staff
If the HR and supervisor did not react to your report, you should take your report to your company’s senior management. Submit your report in writing and include all your evidence regarding the incident.
What Do You Do If the Employer Doesn’t Investigate?
No matter where you are, it is under the law that employers must investigate claims of harassment of any sort in their workplace.
If it is the supervisor or any senior member who harassed an employee, the employers are liable for what has happened. They are also liable if they are aware or should be aware of the case and have not reacted to it. Of course, the harasser themselves are liable for what they have done.
Employers are also liable for their customers or clients’ behaviour if they are found guilty of harassing an employee, especially after the issue is reported. Employers are required by law to take immediate action once they receive a report of sexual harassment.
If you are still harassed by your co-worker, supervisor or client, check if the issue has been investigated. If they didn’t investigate, follow it up with your HR, supervisor or senior management and ask why the investigation did not occur.
Add more evidence to support your report and make sure to tell them that you expect the company to do something about it.
If there was an investigation but no action has been done to the harasser, ask why there isn’t any penalty or charge. You may need to support the case with additional evidence.
Ask the people who saw what happened and check if you can review the investigation report done. Companies often keep disciplinary cases under lock, and often, do not release the findings in public.
If the harassment continues, report the issue again. You can also consult a lawyer if you can seek legal action.
What if the Employer Retaliates?
If your employer acts against you for reporting harassment, they have committed a serious crime. Workplace retaliation can be either immediate termination, sudden department transfer or demotion.
Ask your employer why they took such actions against you. If they did not give you a valid explanation, express your concern that they are committing workplace retaliation.
If they fail to address the issue, speak to a lawyer and check if you can seek legal action.
Sexual harassment is real and everyone must act immediately when it occurs. If we allow harassers to continue what they are doing to you or to your fellow co-workers, it will disrupt your life and work. Report immediately when you experience or see harassment done and see everything through.
For harassment related stories, these are the ones we have:
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