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Sexual harassment can include verbal, nonverbal, written, physical and visual offenses. Sexual harassment is against federal law and is covered under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, follow your employer’s sexual harassment reporting policy if one is in place. If one is not in place, you still can report it.
Tell the Person to Stop
For an action to be considered harassment, it must be unwanted behavior. For example, if a coworker tells you the clothing you wear makes you look sexy and you do not say it bothers you, it is not considered unwelcome behavior. You must tell the offender clearly that the offending behavior makes you uncomfortable and you want it to stop. Only do this if you feel safe speaking with the harasser about it.
When reporting sexual harassment, report it to a neutral person. You do not want to report it to witnesses, friends of the offender or anyone involved in the harassment. Choose someone you can trust in management or, ideally, human resources management. When reporting, try to do it face-to-face. The emotional aspect of face-to-face reporting can motivate the employer to remedy the situation.
What to Say When Reporting
When reporting, be concrete and specific. Do not say “John was harassing me.” You should be as detailed as possible about what John did to offend you. Include dates, times, witnesses and any documents that may support your claim. Stick to the facts and don't embellish your story. Also, state how you want the situation remedied. Your remedy is not necessarily what the employer will do, but it is good to have your ideas taken into consideration.
Document the Reporting
After giving your manager or HR representative a verbal description of what happened, put your complaint in writing with as much detail as possible. Email the information to your manager or another relevant company official. Print a copy for yourself and request that your employer put a copy in your personnel file.
Once you have reported the sexual harassment, your employer must investigate your claim. Employers may or may not include you in the investigation. During this time, keep your employer updated on any new developments or additional information you have about the harassment. If the employer does not include you in the investigation, be sure to document this as well. Keep a copy of all documentation and have a copy included in your personnel file.
What if Nothing Changes
If your company does not act on your sexual harassment complaint, find a lawyer. Often lawyers offer a free consultation regarding sexual harassment cases. You also can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This must be done within six months of the harassment.
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