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What can you do if a coworker behaves inappropriately?

You are entitled to work in a comfortable environment, free from harassment of any kind.

If a coworker is behaving toward you in an inappropriate way, what recourse do you have?

Speak up

The most direct action to take is to address the situation with the person who is making you feel uncomfortable. Whether it involves inappropriate touching, frequent off-color jokes, comments that have a sexual connotation or other such issues, let your coworker know this kind of behavior is offensive to you. It is possible that he or she is not aware of the error and will be careful not to repeat it. Deal with the matter in writing — an email, for example — so that you have a record.

You can avoid your boss

You do not have to talk to your boss about your concerns. He or she may be the coworker who is causing the problem. Refer to the company handbook; there is probably a section about workplace harassment that explains to whom you should take your complaint. If your company is large enough to have a human resources department, that will probably be your destination.

Anticipate the outcome

Your employer, or the HR department representative, must be impartial. The employer or HR representative will interview both you and the person you are accusing of inappropriate behavior and launch an investigation. One of the methods of resolving the problem might be to move one of you to a different department. However, keep in mind that you and your coworker may have to work together in the same area depending on the outcome of the investigation.

Another option

If you have tried to resolve the issue within your company but have had no success, do not feel discouraged; there may be other legal recourse open to you. You deserve to stand for your rights and ensure you can enjoy a workplace free from harassment.

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