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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Learn How to Hold Inappropriate Co-Workers Accountable

Over the last few decades, our country has seen a major shift in workers’ rights, including age restrictions, accommodations for people with disabilities, overtime rules, and more. All these changes have been made in an effort to make the workplace safer and more productive. Recently, there have been more news stories about sexual harassment occurring in the workplace and, consequently, new laws are being written all the time to protect victims of harassment.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as, “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature…” If a person’s conduct starts to interfere with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, they need to change their behavior. While this may sound simple to prevent, the truth is that many people have experienced these kinds of problems while at work, causing them to be distracted at best, and feel unsafe at worst.

Are You Being Harassed at Work?

The problem with these kinds of offenses is that they are often justified as, “just being friendly” or “joking around.” If a joke makes you uncomfortable due to its sexual nature, the person who made it needs to understand that their behavior is inappropriate, especially in the workplace.

Other forms of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwelcome advances: Consider this to be someone coming on to you. They make thinly veiled passes in hopes that something will come of them.
  • Requests for sexual favors: Often a problem between management and subordinates, these can include people performing helpful acts with the implication you will return their kindness with sexual favors.
  • Physical conduct of a sexual nature: Your co-workers have no right to touch you in any manner that could be interpreted as sexual in nature. If this occurs, immediately report it to your boss.

How the Workplace has Changed

Unfortunately, the expectation for victims of sexual harassment is to stay quiet about these kinds of incidents; for, in the past, those who’ve spoken out have often been fired or otherwise punished as a result. There are now clear laws (known as whistleblower protections) that give victims of harassment and retaliation legal recourse.

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, women have more power to speak out and be heard about the harassment they often face at work. The result has been a greater awareness that sexual harassers come in all shapes and sizes, and that speaking out about them is more valuable than remaining silent.

What You Can Do About Harassment in the Workplace

The first thing you should do (as well as the most difficult) is tell the harasser you feel uncomfortable. If you have documented that you spoke with someone about their behavior and that it continued despite your conversation, you will have a stronger case in your favor.

You should also write down what is happening. Take detailed notes that can be given as specifics if you are asked about the incident(s). If you don’t write it down and give the harasser a chance to change their behavior, you are not likely to win in court. Include dates and times. Make a case to your manager, then to HR if that doesn’t work. If they fail to help you, you can file a complaint with the EEOC.

Finally, hire an employment attorney in Pocatello who can help you build a strong case. If your employer won’t take the right corrective action, it will be up to the legal system to enforce the law and penalize them.  

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