Enduring sexual harassment in the workplace can be unbearable — and is normally against the law. But there’s a gap between what is considered harassment in the workplace and what is considered an isolated incident. Not sure you know what the difference is? No worries. We’re going to explain what the law says about workplace sexual harassment, and when you’re in the right for trying to find help.
Examples of workplace sexual harassment include, inappropriate touching, inappropriate gender-related commentary, inappropriate comments related to sexual orientation, comments about appearance, or inappropriate email communications (even outside of work). For instance, when your boss asks for a date, grabs your butt, or flirts relentlessly — you have a good case of sexual harassment and can even sue.
Here’s the rub. The law doesn’t provide for isolated incidents. Let’s say your boss implies a desire for a date. You shut it down. The boss never brings it up again. In this situation, you probably don’t have a case.
What should you do when you’re feeling harassed?
First things first: write down the date and time of the incident and what happened in your own words. Because harassment is against the law when a pattern presents itself, you should keep a written record to show your lawyer — or even prosecutors — if needed. You should also ask your superior to stop doing this, and make note of when and how often you made this request. Be sure to save any written form of communication between you and your boss. File them away.
Next, speak to the HR department. This department exists to bridge the communication gap and solve differences of opinion between employer and employee. Sometimes, HR fails to respond adequately.
The last remaining option is to file a formal complaint with the EEOC and contact an employment law attorney. Although this might not resolve the tension at work, you do deserve compensation for the emotional drain you’re experiencing. It’s time to fight the good fight.