Sexual Harassment At Work - How To Deal With It

How To Deal With Sexual Harassment At Work?

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April 5, 2019 admin

Let’s start with a shower of truth!

  • Sexual harassment at workplace is unfortunately not uncommon.
  • Not all victims include females.
  • Not all perpetrators are male.

No matter what gender, a boss, a customer, or a coworker can be involved in an activity of sexual harassment.

For a person who goes through sexual harassment, the reaction depends on many factors. Certain situations can make you uncomfortable, while others make you angry and devastated. Workplace harassment can change the way you look at your career forever.

Read Also: 6 Ways To Deal With Political Talk In The Office

In a situation of apparent case of sexual harassment, you might feel confused and scared to make your next move?

Which is why this article has accumulated a sequence of steps you can take to deal with sexual harassment at work.

1. Understand the criteria of sexual harassment

First and foremost, you should know whether an action or a situation comes within the criteria of sexual harassment.

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Here are the criteria that define certain actions and statements as sexual harassment:

  • The action or statement should offend the victim. So, if an employee takes an offending statement casually and finds it funny, it won’t be a case of sexual harassment. Suppose, some other female employee overhears that comment, then, she might feel offended. In this case, the other female employee becomes a victim. So, a statement or a situation should be in the “unwelcome” zone for the victim in order to qualify as sexual harassment.
  • The person feeling offended by a statement or a comment should be reasonable. For instance, if a person compliments another’s dress or looks. In this case, the factors will include the relationship between those two people. Many other questions also become a part of the assessment. How those two people normally behave with each other? What were the tone and gesture of that compliment? Is there a third person agreeing to the creepiness of that compliment? These questions make the decision making complicated in the case of sexual harassment.
  • The seriousness and pervasive nature of behavior matters as well. In some cases, the message is serious and direct, which makes it sufficient for this criteria.

With the above-assessment, it is clear that classifying sexual harassment is not a sharp cut. Situations can become really complicated to analyze. And even the perception of sexual harassment can differ from person to person.

The approach of a victim also plays a big role. If a victim keeps on continuing a relationship, despite the sexual harassment, it is not considered as “unwelcome”.

But the moment you feel uncomfortable by someone’s comment or inappropriate behavior, it turns it into an unwelcome scenario.

2. Decide your next steps

A third employee can easily say that you should shut down sexual harassment at the moment it is happening.

But, this is not possible in every scenario. If the other person is your senior, you might feel intimidated to call him/her out. Sometimes, you want to keep your job, which is why you just try to ignore.

That being said, it is important that you stop that sexual harasser whenever possible. This sends a clear message that you are not accepting any sort of inappropriate behavior. This way, you give power to your sexual harassment case. The question regarding this will be asked during the investigation process.

Find the strength in you to overcome the concerns and feelings. And have faith and trust in your organization’s ability to take appropriate action.

Since the inception and reach of #MeToo movement, submitting your complaint against sexual harassment has become more convenient. More complaints are accepted in every sector, so you don’t have to worry about not getting heard.

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No matter where you work, what’s your designation, age or gender, corporate sexual harassment has become a primary issue all across the globe.

3. Follow complaint procedure provided for sexual harassment in your company

Every company has a policy and procedure regarding sexual harassment cases. This policy involves the steps you can take to file your complaint. You can check the employee handbook to understand this procedure.

Mostly, such guidelines ask you to submit your complaint to the team manager. This is applicable only if the manager is not a perpetrator in the case. You can also submit your complaint to the HR department.

Some companies assign an expert to handle these matters, so you might be asked to send your complaint to that person. If your company has more than 15 employees, it comes within the sexual harassment laws.

You can follow the steps requested by your company officials and file a written as well as a verbal complaint to the suitable authorities. If you are not comfortable going to a certain person, you can decide to file a report to any working manager.

It is important to take immediate actions and avoid waiting for too long. The state laws apply for certain days in the case of sexual harassment. You should find out that period in your location and act before that passes.

4. Write your formal letter to complain regarding a sexual harassment encounter

A verbal complaint is fine, but you should make your complaint formal with a letter. Here are all the elements you should include in your formal letter against sexual harassment:

  • Use a clear subject line saying, “This is a formal complaint against sexual harassment.” Mentioning the term ‘sexual harassment’ is key here. This allows the authorities to understand the seriousness of the issue. This way, they restrict to take your complaint lightly.
  • You should try to provide a timeline of everything in this letter. Try to include dates, names, documented actions, and other details. This will increase the strength of your complaint. You should try to list a witness after consulting that person. This can help during the investigation process.
  • Write about the comments, the person who made comments, the time and the consequences you faced.
  • Make sure you clearly define whether the sexual harassment was a one-time event or it is ongoing. One-time actions are way different than the continuous pervasive behavior. So, you need to be clear about the information you give via the formal letter.
  • You can also include any concerns, which you are fighting in your head. So, for example, you can inform that you worry about not getting your raise because you denied a date proposal from your senior.

5. Think about the need for a private attorney

In ideal situations, your company should act promptly and resolve the problem fairly. However, if you don’t see that happening, you have the right to hire your private attorney. This way, you can take your case outside the company for a fair decision.

It is possible that you feel unhappy with the way company officials handle your case. You might disagree with the case and evidence they showcase. In that situation, it would be wise to hire your own private attorney.

Read Also: 10 Challenges Faced by HR Managers and How to Tackle Them

You will also need an attorney, in case, you find a retaliation against your complaint. Such retaliation is illegal and punishable by law. So, an attorney can help you get justice.

What should an organization do to deal with such complaints?

  1. Keep your employees informed about the organizational policies against sexual harassment.
  2. Allows different options for victims to file their complaint. Assign different managers and officials as options for the victims.
  3. For every complaint, assign a member of the staff with all the details of the complaint. This member should understand company policies.
  4. Create an investigation strategy and designate the right knowledgeable people for the job.
  5. Communicate with the victim and assure about the protection against retaliation or any other inappropriate action.
  6. Discuss every detail of the action or comment with the victim and collect important data such as time, dates, witnesses, situations and other informational pieces.
  7. Inform, the accused, about the complaint and warn against unethical or retaliatory acts.
  8. Assure every involved party regarding a fair investigation.
  9. 9. Follow a clear process to interview witnesses. Use questions that allow open-ended answers to get maximum facts.
  10. 10. Do not judge the accused before the allegations get the facts. Interview the accused with respect and listen to his or her version as well.
  11. 11. Collect all the evidence and create an overall picture of the situation.

With that, company authorities can reach a fair decision.

Hopefully, you have found what you were looking for!