Sexual harassment is a major issue in American workplaces, and the damage it does to its victims, the economy at large, and to small and medium-sized companies in and around Edwardsville, IL, is nothing short of severe. If you’re the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should know that you’re not alone and that you have legal rights.
What Counts as Harassment?
American law defines sexual harassment fairly well. Though the legal language runs on at length, the gist is that harassment consists of any sexualized or gendered conduct in the workplace that makes you feel unsafe, stressed out or unable to do your job. All forms of unwanted touching, for example, fall under this definition, as do repeated requests for dates and inappropriate comments about your appearance, relationship status, or other personal matters. Most American companies have internal policies that go beyond mere legal definitions to cover a broader range of prohibited behavior.
When Harassment Is an Issue
If you feel you might be the victim of sexual harassment, what you do in the early stages determines a lot about what your options will be later on. Steps to take right away include:
- Learning company policy: As noted above, many companies have their own harassment policies and virtually all of them are very harsh on violators. Learn what your company considers harassment; it goes a long way toward deciding whether you’ll handle the matter internally or through an employment lawyer later on.
- Notifying management: Supervisors and managers generally get training in how to handle sexual harassment complaints, and your employer may designate them as your first go-to resource. If the harassment happens to be coming from a management employee, don’t hesitate to report the incident to HR or to a senior-level manager.
- Tracking incidents: If the harassing behavior happens more than once, keeping a log of events can give you a powerful tool to stop the behavior being minimized later on. Being able to point to a dozen specific incidents on different dates abolishes the defense that “it was just one time,” or “you’re memory is faulty.”
- Call for help: Some harassment goes beyond annoyance and enters actual threat territory. If you have been threatened or if another employee corners you or puts you in a position where you fear for your safety, report the behavior to law enforcement immediately. You can still work with management to resolve the issue, but your safety comes first.
If you have questions about sexual harassment in the workplace, contact Brunton Law Office for legal advice in Edwardsville, IL and throughout the Metro East.