Sexual harassment is a serious and pervasive issue that can harm people in many different environments, particularly in the workplace. It could be unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It can even create a hostile or offensive work environment, impacting a person’s career opportunities and their employment conditions.

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If You Experience Sexual Harassment

If you believe you’re facing sexual harassment at work, it’s crucial to know that you’re not alone and that there are steps you can take to address the situation. For example:

  1. Document Everything: Keep a detailed record of the incidents, including dates, times, places, what was said or done, and any witnesses. This documentation can be crucial for any future steps you decide to take.
  2. Know Your Company’s Policy: Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s sexual harassment policy. Most organizations have a procedure for reporting such incidents, which is usually outlined in the employee handbook.
  3. Report the Harassment: Depending on your comfort level and the severity of the harassment, you might choose to address the person directly, asking them to stop. If this isn’t feasible or the harassment continues, report the behavior to a supervisor or the human resources department. Provide them with your documented evidence can support your report.
  4. Seek Support: This can be a distressing experience, so consider reaching out to supportive colleagues, a trusted mentor, or professional counseling services to navigate this challenging time. Remember, this is a serious issue and you are not alone.

Employers: Responding to Reports of Harassment

Tyler K. Allen is an employment attorney, founder of Tyler Allen Law Firm, and neutral workplace investigator located in Phoenix, Arizona.

As an employer or manager, responding appropriately to reports of sexual harassment is crucial to maintain a safe and respectful workplace. Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Take Immediate Action: Upon receiving a report, act promptly to ensure the safety and comfort of the employee. This might involve separating the parties involved to prevent further harassment while the investigation is ongoing.
  2. Review Company Policy: Ensure that any actions taken align with your organization’s sexual harassment policy and procedures.
  3. Conduct an Investigation: Decide whether to conduct the investigation internally or to hire an external, neutral investigator. The investigation should be thorough, impartial, and respectful of all parties’ privacy. Gather evidence, interview the complainant, the accused, and any witnesses, and document everything meticulously.
  4. Take Appropriate Action: Based on the investigation’s findings, take appropriate disciplinary action if necessary. This could range from a warning to termination, depending on the severity of the harassment.
  5. Prevent Retaliation: Ensure that the complainant is protected from retaliation from supervisors and coworkers, which is illegal and can further harm the workplace environment.
  6. Foster a Respectful Workplace: Use this as an opportunity to reinforce a zero-tolerance policy for harassment. Provide training and resources to employees to prevent future incidents. It’s important to recognize how difficult it may be for a victim of sexual harassment to come forward. Be sensitive, and foster a workplace that values trust and respect.

Addressing sexual harassment effectively requires a commitment from both employees and employers to create a respectful and safe work environment. By understanding what constitutes harassment, knowing how to report it, and ensuring a proper response to reports, workplaces can better protect their employees and foster a culture of respect and dignity.

Editor’s note: This article is brought to you in collaboration with Scottsdale Professionals Collective.

Author: Tyler K. Allen is an employment attorney, founder of Tyler Allen Law Firm, and neutral workplace investigator located in Phoenix, Arizona.