What Can I Do If I Am Being Sexually Harassed At Work?

Image of woman sitting anxiously at desk about sexual harassment

If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed at work, you may be wondering what you can do to stop the harassment. 

First, you should know that you are not alone.  Sexual harassment is the most common form of workplace harassment and has been estimated to affect one in three American women and one in ten American men.

Second, you should know that there are many laws that protect California employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The steps below are just a few of the possible options that may be available to you and should not be considered legal advice.  You should also be prepared for the fact that none of the steps discussed below are easy.  Most require reporting the harassment and could potentially lead to an awkward or uncomfortable work environment.

An experienced employment lawyer can help you to understand your rights as well as the costs and benefits of stopping sexual harassment.  If you would like some guidance in dealing with sexual harassment in an effective and appropriate manner, call employment law attorneys David Peer and Michael Hart now at Tel: 213-631-4270.  Our firm offers free consultations and we are always willing to take the time to help you to decide what the best option is for you.

Ask the Harasser to Stop

If you haven’t already done so, you should consider asking the harasser to stop harassing you.  Even if you believe that this won’t stop the harassment, it may be important from a legal standpoint.  Some harassers will try to claim that they had “no idea” that you felt harassed and that they believed you enjoyed their attention.  Whether or not this is true, that argument may keep the harasser from being disciplined by your employer and it may be an effective argument in court.

It is usually better to make it abundantly clear, (in writing if possible), that you are not interested, and that you would like the harasser to stop the behavior that is making you uncomfortable.

Report to Your Supervisor

If a coworker is harassing you, you may be able to resolve or improve the situation by talking to your supervisor.  Your employer has a duty to provide you with a workplace free of sexual harassment.  Once you inform your supervisor of the harassment, your supervisor should take corrective action to fix the situation.  That may mean that your supervisor talks with your coworker, disciplines your coworker, or even terminates the coworker.

You may want to make your report or complaint to your supervisor in writing so that you have some evidence of the report, in case you need to recall this fact later.

Report to Human Resources

If you are being harassed by a supervisor or by your boss, ask yourself if there is someone else in the company that you could report the harassment.  Employees in the human resources department are often trained to deal with reports of sexual harassment and may be a good option.

If you are not comfortable reporting to a human resources employee, you may consider reporting the harassment to an individual who supervises your supervisor.  While, “going above your supervisor’s head”, may cause tension between you and the supervisor, you may have few other options.

A careful approach may be necessary and an employment lawyer can help you craft your communications tactfully and strategically.

Legal Action

Even if you do not want to sue, it is important to talk to a lawyer as early in the process as possible.  A lawyer can help you by working “behind the scenes” and can advise you on whether you should report the harassment and how to document your reports.  Although you may not be interested in suing your employer right now, things can sometimes get worse.  The harassment may not stop, your employer could retaliate against you for making the report, or your supervisor could fabricate write-ups against you to get you fired.

If you have listened carefully to the advice of an employment attorney through the entire process, it is likely that you will have a much stronger case in the event that you do decide to sue.

If you decide to seek compensation for the harassment or wrongful termination, you may have a number of options including:

(1) writing an informal demand letter and attempting to settle the case outside of court,

(2) filing a lawsuit,

(3) initiating a class action lawsuit, or;

(4) filing a complaint with an administrative agency such as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.  If you have a good case, your lawyer may offer to take your case on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you won’t have to pay anything until you win.

Quitting Your Job

If you feel like you cannot continue to work at your job, quitting is always an option.  Unfortunately, for many people, this is not a realistic option for economic reasons.  Moreover, from a legal perspective, quitting is rarely a good option.  If you are considering quitting your job due to sexual harassment and you are also considering seeking compensation, talk to a lawyer before you quit, not after.

Your lawyer may advise you of steps that you can take before you quit that may increase the value of your potential case.

Help Stop The Cycle of Workplace Harassment

Whether you are being harassed, or whether someone you know is being harassed, you may have the power to stop it.  Whether you take action on your own or you enlist the help of an attorney, putting a stop to workplace sexual harassment is rarely easy.  Remember that more often than not, a supervisor who harasses one employee and gets away with it will go on to harass others.  Your actions may improve not only your own life and your own career, but can help countless others.

Contact EmploymentRightsAttorney.com right now if you have concerns about harassment in your workplace, and would like free advice in a confidential consultation. Tel: 760-239-0230

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David Peer

About the author

David focuses his practice on civil litigation for small businesses and individuals. Prior to founding Peer & Hart, PC, David worked in WilmerHale's Los Angeles office litigating complex matters for multi-national corporations. David was a member of WilmerHale's patent litigation group and was on the trial team for large-scale patent cases in Federal Court. In 2015, David helped try a multi-week, billion dollar patent case. David also took part in government investigations and major discovery projects, giving him a deep understanding of efficiency and cost-reduction strategies in pre-trial litigation.

Since forming Peer | Hart, David has defended his clients from employment suits and actions in front of administrative agencies. David has negotiated favorable settlements and counseled his clients on cost effective litigation strategy and litigation prevention. David has an engineering degree and is registered to prosecute patents in front of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

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