The workplace is supposed to be a neutral zone where employees can comfortably and safely work without fear of being subjected to prejudice or harassment due to their gender. Unfortunately, while many understand that sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious issue, many are ill-prepared to deal with it if they should ever experience it firsthand. If you should ever encounter some form of unwanted sexual attention or mistreatment, there are several things you can do to protect your rights.
- Do not quit: Many people may resign immediately after being subject to sexual harassment, as they are too uncomfortable or embarrassed by their situation to take action. While this is understandable, quitting will often leave you unable to do anything to fix the situation and provide your harasser with the opportunity to harass someone else.
- Check your employee handbook: While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ushered in an unprecedented level of protections for employees and job seekers against discrimination based on a wide range of protected characteristics, workplace harassment is not specifically addressed within its text. According to the Supreme Court, however, harassment that is “sufficiently severe or pervasive” is a violation of federal law. While this can be vague, in many cases, the definition of harassment is made much clearer within a company’s employee handbook. In other words, while the treatment that you have received may not be enough to violate the law, it may very well be considered a violation of company policy. Prohibited acts may include lewd comments, touching, sexual jokes, or even repeated requests for dates.
- Submit a written complaint: If someone at work has done something to make you feel uncomfortable, speak to them about it – in writing, if possible. While this may be awkward, there is a possibility that they have made an error without realizing it and will correct their behavior. Otherwise, if the behavior continues, you will have made a record of their conduct and will be able to avoid a “he said, she said” battle in court.
- Report your mistreatment: Many companies have policies that require employees to report complaints of harassment to human resources or to some other authority figure. This can be difficult if the person harassing you is your boss, or if the person responsible for handling harassment claims is particularly close to your harasser. Your employer should have a list of alternate people to report to. Regardless, be sure to follow the established reporting procedure, as the Supreme Court says that you must give your employer the chance to correct the situation before you can sue. It is important to remember that your employer does not have to fire the harasser – they only have to make your mistreatment stop. Once your company is aware of the situation, they may be held liable if they fail to take action.
- File an EEOC complaint: If your employer has still done nothing to remedy the situation, the next step is to file a “Formal Complaint of Sexual Harassment” with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission detailing everything that was said, done, and experienced. Be sure to indicate that your mistreatment was based on your gender. Likewise, report any retaliation that you may experience from your harasser or employer to the EEOC.
- Hire an attorney: By far the most important step when taking action against workplace harassment is to retain the services of a powerful attorney. Sexual harassment cases frequently boil down to a matter of your word against your harasser’s, so it is imperative you have an advocate by your side who can strengthen your case.
Contact Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP
If you are being subjected to sexual harassment that is so frequent or severe that it has altered the conditions of your employment, contact the Houston employment law attorneys at Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP today. Our knowledgeable advocates understand the complex laws and regulations that influence your situation and can provide the powerful representation you need to help you pursue a quick and effective solution. Find out more about what our team of Super Lawyers® can do for you by calling our office at (713) 352-3433 or by filling out an online form today.