Saturday, May 8, 2021

Sexual Harassment Attorney – What to Do if You Are Sexually Harassed at Work

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What to Do if You Are Sexually Harassed at Work
Sexual harassment has always been a thorny issue in just about any social and professional setting and even more so in the age of #MeToo and #TimeIsUp movements. Since these campaigns launched, many women have come forward telling tales of how they have endured sexual harassment at work. Companies typically have policies to negate such incidents, but it appears these rules are not always upheld and men – especially those in powerful positions – are allowed to misbehave. If the tons of allegations of sexual harassment at the hands of bosses and colleagues are anything to go by, change is direly needed in workplaces.
Before real change can happen, it is essential that we understand what comprises of sexual harassment and what doesn’t. Sexual harassment could fall in the spectrum of undesired advances, unsolicited verbal and physical actions that create a hostile workplace, and these actions could be done by employees and non-employees. The latter category includes clients, vendors, or a contractor engaging in unwanted behavior inevitably creating a hostile work environment.
Examples of sexual harassment at work are as follows:

  • Staring at someone in a sexually provocative manner, or whistling at them
  • Telling sexual anecdotes in the workplace
  • Asking about someone’s sexual preferences or history
  • Showing sexually-charged material, e.g., posters at work
  • Making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts
  • Brushing up against someone, rubbing, or patting someone inappropriately

It is vital to draw a clear distinction between sexual misconduct and other offenses at work. Examples of transgressions that don’t fall under sexual assaults include:

  • Communicating using racist slang or statements
  • Offensive gestures with hands or other body parts
  • Sharing inappropriate images, texts, or other correspondence
  • Commenting on someone’s skin tone or other ethnic traits
  • Making racist illustrations or graffiti that could offend certain people
  • Poking fun at someone’s physical and mental incapacity
  • Discussing stereotypes of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, etc. impertinently

A Sexual Harassment Lawyer can advise on potential sexual harassment cases and give you a better understanding of what to in the case of unwanted harassment. The misconduct can happen inside business premises and during work engagements in a hotel room when on work trips or during an off-site company event. There are two common types of sexual harassment; quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
Quid pro quo – this kind of harassment occurs when a person in authority such as a direct supervisor demands their reporting junior or other subordinates to withstand sexual harassment, so they receive job perks. They could be promised a raise, promotion, better hours, more popular type of chores, etc.
Hostile work environment harassment – this sort of aggravation is much harder to prove as it requires a pattern of abuse, and the actions must be deemed pervasive to the extent of creating an unwelcome atmosphere. When courts are deliberating on sexual misconduct allegations, they are seeking to determine if:

  • The actions were verbal or physical or both
  • The regularity of the conduct
  • The behavior was hostile or blatantly offensive
  • The position held by the alleged harasser
  • Others people enabled or even helped in perpetuating the abuse
  • The undesired actions were directed at just one person or more than one person

Workplace and work sexual harassment are pervasive, and recent studies support this deduction. Stop Street Harassment, a nonprofit, did a survey where they found 81% of women and 43% of men have endured harassment at one time or another. At the close of 2017, a CNBC Survey surmised that 27% of women and 10% of men had experienced sexual harassment at work. As you can see, this data is heavily skewed toward women as compared to their male counterparts. Older generations usually report more incidences of harassment as compared to millennials, and this is attributed to their many years of working experience.
The CNBC survey found that 74% of adults said their companies took sexual harassment very seriously, and 5% said their employers don’t. Another interesting finding is that 74% of adults polled agree with the dismissal of high-ranking executives and well-known figures who were accused of sexual misconduct. Nonetheless claimed the punishment was too lenient seeing that some bosses get generous severance packages and some going on to land other prestigious jobs.
What’s more painful is seeing how these powerful men deal with such allegations; Harvey Weinstein was accused of going to great lengths to silence anyone who knew of his misconduct. Les Moonves, the now-disgraced CBS CEO, was accused of sexual misconduct spanning three decades. After his resignation, CBS announced plans to donate $20 million to the #MeToo movement and this amount would be deduced from the Moonves severance package that stipulated he was entitled to $180 million upon departure. As great as this generosity sounds, this network is responsible for enabling the CEO’s actions, thus creating a hostile atmosphere for everyone.
Time Magazine and other reputable publications detailed incidences of sexual misconduct by Weinstein, Moonves, Scott Baio, Ryan Seacrest, and countless other alleged perpetrators. The full list as of March this year comprised of 144 persons and we can only assume the list of shame will include more names by years’ end.
According to Equality Now, a nonprofit that has been championing gender parity since 1992, sexual harassment comes in many shapes and forms.
In spite of stringent laws to combat the scourge, 91% of people who have faced any sexual misconduct do not file claims with their employer or law enforcement. They fear retaliation such as unfair treatment at work, being denied promotions, or even dismissal. Fears of people disbelieving them or lack of action are other hindrances that keep such victims silent, but a Sexual Harassment Lawyer can help to bolster these cases and get a better outcome.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supported the “It’s On Us” movement aimed at changing the cultures of workplaces across the country. This journey starts with empowering men and women with the necessary tools to protect themselves against sexual misconduct. While the movement is gathering steam with more people supporting it even in colleges, actual progress has been slower than projected. Equality Now is calling upon the EEOC to demand transparency in workplaces concerning sexual harassment allegations, thus foster work environments that are free from such misconduct.
There are steps you can take to address any incidence of sexual misconduct, no matter how trivial and no matter who is engaging in this behavior.

  1. Speak to Your Harasser

According to the Human Rights Commission, facing your aggressor and explicitly letting them know you are offended by their actions, and they are indeed breaching workplace etiquette is vital. You can do this without placing a label on their activities; ask them to stop and get away from them unless they are your direct supervisor. In such a case, you could request the HR to transfer you to another team.

  1. Share your Concerns with Others

Telling a co-worker or a friend about what you are experiencing even when the harassment is not apparent is empowering. It is an opportunity to get things off your chest and creates a trail of witnesses for that crucial time when you hold the aggressor accountable. Speaking up could also lead to more victims who have suffered the same or worse treatment by the same person or another colleague.

  1. Find Professional Support

Apart from your supervisor – who could be the aggressor – the next step is raising the issue with HR or another superior person to guide you. Educate yourself on your employer’s policies with regard to sexual harassment and be ready to take the stipulated actions. If you are a union member, speak to a representative so they can understand your predicament.

  1. Documentation

Take notes of all unpleasant interactions with the alleged harasser and store them away safely – preferably not on a company-assigned computer or a notebook in your drawer. The person could retrieve these notes and destroy them, thus making your case weak. Also, document any adverse treatment by your aggressor such as giving you tougher assignments, refusing to approve your leave, giving you a bad rating during performance appraisals, etc.

  1. Make a Formal Complaint

As per the Supreme Court Guidelines, reporting sexual harassment is mandatory before you can sue. However, ensure you adhere to the company guidelines on such behavior. The aim here is to give your employer a fair chance to correct the problem before taking legal action.

  1. Report Harassment to EEOC

File a complaint with your local EEOC office within 180 to 300 days since the abuse began. This step safeguards you from any form of retaliation by your aggressor or employer after making a formal complaint. If any revenge ensues, please record a detailed account of each action.

  1. Find a Sexual Harassment Attorney

As mentioned previously, most companies have anti-sexual harassment guidelines, but they are not always enacted, especially when a perpetrator is an influential person or a client. Find the best Sexual Harassment Lawyer you can afford and share the discovery with them so they can guide you further on the actions you can take. If the harassment is too much to bear, you can find alternative employment as you pursue legal action with the help of your attorney.
In the end, employers have to ensure their workplaces are free from any forms of harassment among peers, supervisors, and even non-employees. If you find yourself suffering at the hands of any entity at work or in the line of duty, take the necessary precautions to stop the abuse. Things may remain the same or change permanently, or the aggressor may be back at it again, and when this happens, you should have no doubts about hiring an attorney.

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