Sexual harassment can take a variety of forms, including uninvited sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, inappropriate touching and suggestive e-mails of a sexual nature. This conduct becomes unlawful when it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision, such as termination or demotion.
If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you are not alone. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) discrimination statistics reveal that 30,356 sexual discrimination claims, which include sexual harassment, were filed in the United States in 2012. In California, claims increased nearly 6 percent from 2011.
Victims of sexual harassment are often uncertain how to handle the situation. Below are some helpful tips:
- Don’t ignore the harassment — Many victims hope that sexual harassment will go away on its own. Unfortunately, ignoring the conduct generally tends to escalate it. Although it may be uncomfortable, it is important to make it clear to the harasser that his or her conduct is inappropriate and that you want it to stop.
- Document instances of sexual harassment — If you are being sexually harassed, you should keep a written record of the incidents and save any evidence of inappropriate conduct, including e-mails, texts and voice mail messages.
- Don’t be afraid to report inappropriate conduct — The best way to stop harassment is to report it. Once you have notified your employer about the situation, it is obligated to conduct an investigation and take all appropriate actions to remedy the harassment. Failing to file a timely complaint could damage your chances of success in a subsequent lawsuit.
- Make sure you understand your rights — Review your company’s employee manuals or policies regarding sexual harassment to become familiar with the complaint process. Victims should also be aware that it is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for complaining about the harassment or filing a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Finally, it is important to consult an attorney early in the process. Employment lawyers can be a powerful ally when dealing with sexual harassment. At the Law Offices of John E. Hill, a Professional Corporation, we can advise you how to handle the situation and explain your legal options.