Workplace sexual harassment is illegal, but it is still very common. Dealing with it is never easy. Avoiding these five mistakes along the way can at least reduce some of the stress:
1. Let Other People Tell You What To Do
You get to choose whether or not you want to report the workplace sexual harassment. You can report it, you can ignore it, you can quit. You have options, and you should not let anyone push you toward one that does not feel right to you.
The reality is that reporting sexual harassment is not an easy path. That being said, you do have the right to a harassment-free workplace. There are laws in place to protect you and people who will do everything within their power to keep you safe if and when you choose to report.
2. Fail To Document
If you choose to report the workplace sexual harassment you are experiencing, you will need evidence. Make detailed notes of anything that happens – unwanted advances, inappropriate touching, rude jokes, quid pro quo requests. Record the time and the date of each event. Have you received harassing emails? Save them. Print them out. The perpetrators of sexual harassment will try to deny that it happened, and evidence that shows the truth will be critical.
3. Harass Back
Confronting the person harassing you at work is fine, if you feel safe and are comfortable doing so. An article from wikiHow encourages that victims begin by making a clear statement indicating the specific actions. For example, “Do not make jokes like that. That is sexual harassment.”
However, in the heat of anger at being sexually harassed, it can be tempting to try to give a harasser a taste of their own medicine. Take care that you are not engaging in activities that could also be considered harassment, or you will run the risk of having a claim filed against you.
4. Wait Too Long To Take Action
Unfortunately, there are time restrictions in place under Ohio and federal law, so taking action as soon as possible is important in work sexual harassment cases.
If you are going to submit a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you have 180 or 300 days, depending on where you work. If you are going to pursue a lawsuit, there are also deadlines that need to be adhered to. Most lawsuits are filed as violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Ohio, you might also pursue a lawsuit under Ohio Revised Code 4112.02. For this, you have up to 6 years to file the claim with the state court.
5. Not Getting Good Advice
Everyone will be happy to provide advice. Family members, friends and coworkers may encourage you to report or not report. They may even try to give legal guidance. Just remember, this is your case. Do not feel pressured to report because of anyone else and do not let anyone deter you from reporting. Do not let a layperson’s misunderstanding of employment law influence your decision either way.
Most attorneys who handle on-the-job sexual harassment cases will provide a free consultation, which is a good opportunity to learn about your options and potential outcomes from someone who truly knows the law.
No Matter What, Protect Yourself
Workplace sexual harassment may begin as words, but can escalate to stalking or worse. Please take care to protect yourself. If the harassing coworker starts following you to your car in the parking lot, leave work with a coworker you trust or have someone meet you after work. If you feel unsafe, you can call the police. You can also request a restraining order. You have options. You are not alone.