- Was this even sexual harassment (as the law defines it)?
- How should I respond to the harasser?
- Should I report the harassment?
- Are there steps I should take to protect myself against future harassment?
- What can I do to prevent my employer from retaliating against me for reporting the conduct?
These are questions an experienced employment lawyer can answer.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is the unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Not every single offensive comment will qualify as sexual harassment as the law defines. If you are confronted with conduct that you feel is sexual harassment, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible to figure out whether the conduct fits the legal definition of harassment.
Meeting a Lawyer Before Your Report Sexual Harassment
If you feel that you have been sexually harassed, you need to take certain steps to protect your rights. For example, your employer’s policy (and even the law) may require you to report possible sexual harassment to human resources or managerial employees in order to hold the employer responsible for the harassment. (Note that if the harasser is a manager, the law doesn’t require that you report the harassment in order to hold the employer responsible for it.) An experienced employment lawyer will help you figure out the right HR or other employees to whom you should report possible harassment. A lawyer can also work with you to outline your description of the harassing conduct. That way, if you get nervous when you speak with HR or a manager about the conduct (which is only natural), you’ll have the confidence to provide all of the relevant information clearly and calmly.
In addition to helping you prepare to report harassment, an employment lawyer will advise you as to other steps to take to protect yourself. These steps may include:
- Documenting the harassment and all discussions about it with your employer
- Preparing you to deal with the harasser if the harassment continues
- Advising you about how to report future harassment to your employer, and
- Monitoring your employer’s response to your complaint to make sure your employer does not retaliate against you.
When you have to deal with harassment at work, it can be difficult to think clearly about how to respond. An employee subjected to sexual harassment may be too emotionally drained and confused to have a perspective on his or her circumstances needed to formulate a strong response. An employment lawyer can be a great resource to draw on so that you can decide what steps to take.
Be Helpful During Investigation
Your employer is required by law to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment. And, your employer cannot take steps during the investigation that negatively affect your employment. An experienced employment lawyer can check in with you during the investigation to make sure that the employer is proceeding as required by law.
Employers are prohibited by law from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment. Retaliation can take many forms and is not limited to disciplinary write-ups or termination (although those actions certainly may be retaliation). For example, if your managers remove you from desirable projects or exclude you from meetings, events, or even social outings after you report harassment, a lawyer can analyze these actions to see if they are retaliatory.
Discuss Filing Charges
An employment lawyer will also describe the formal measures you can take to challenge sexual harassment. These include filing a charge of discrimination against your employer with your state’s anti-discrimination agency or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And, the lawyer can talk to you about the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, as well as the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit against your employer if you are dissatisfied with its response to your complaint of sexual harassment.
Jones Brown Law
Whether you are entering the job market for the first time or were recently terminated, it is important to understand your rights as a worker. Both federal and state governments have enacted a wide range of employment laws protecting employees from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, unsafe work conditions, and more. Working environments can be chaotic and complex. The law offices of Jones Brown wants to make sure you are aware of your rights as an employee or employer.