In 2017, the #MeToo movement shed light on the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment and the underlying pattern of victims’ reluctance to report the behavior. Harassment may include inappropriate attention, unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 12 percent of workers reported having experienced sexual harassment on the job. Of the respondents who indicated they had experienced workplace harassment, 72 percent did not report the situation to their employer. Of the workers who remained silent, 40 percent cited fear of being labeled a troublemaker as their reason. Many victims of workplace harassment fear wrongful termination and often believe filing a complaint will create a hostile work environment.
When confronted with workplace harassment, knowing how to take action can be empowering. Workers should familiarize themselves with their company’s anti-harassment policy, which is typically covered in the employee handbook. The human resources department may also provide more information. An individual who is being harassed at work should follow the process outlined in the company policy.
While different employers have different policies, federal law provides some uniformity. Upon becoming aware of harassment, federal guidelines require companies to promptly conduct an impartial investigation while ensuring that the harassing behavior stops. In addition to reporting the situation, the workers should document the incident in detail, including the names of people who may have witnessed the conduct.
Workers may choose to file a direct claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hiring an experienced attorney for sexual harassment legal assistance prior to filing may be helpful. A knowledgeable attorney is trained to support individuals in following the proper procedure to seek compensation for wrongful termination or other injuries the worker may have suffered.