Every employee should have a work environment that they feel safe in, where they can thrive and do their best without concern for mistreatment from an employer or coworkers. Unfortunately, a worker may become victim to sexual harassment at one point or another in their career. The key is knowing how to respond and what resources are available to protect you.
What constitutes as sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment can take on many forms, but it is important for an employee to know what types of behavior is unacceptable. Sexual harassment can happen to any worker regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or financial status. Here are specific examples of what can be considered sexual harassment:
- Making sexual gestures towards a coworker
- Displaying sexually suggestive art, objects or other items (pictures, cartoons, posters, computer screen backgrounds, calendars, etc.)
- Making verbal remarks, epithets, jokes, or slurs that are of a sexual tone
- Verbal or non-verbal advances towards an unwilling coworker to engage in sexual activity
- Verbal abuse that is sexual in nature, including comments about a coworker’s body or appearance
- Using sexually degrading words to describe a coworker
- Writing obscene letters, electronic mail, invitations, or messages to a coworker
What are my options if I am being sexually harassed?
If you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, there are steps you can take to see the person is held responsible and you are protected from future mistreatment. First, document the harassment by writing down a detailed account of what happened. Then, consider contacting your human resources representative to report the incident so the matter can be handled professionally and promptly. If you feel your safety is seriously threatened, do not hesitate to call the police.
What if I am afraid of retaliation for being a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are employees who report misconduct of an employer or coworker, often to an anonymous hotline as a way to request further investigation. An employee could either have witnessed or have been the victim of a sexual harassment incident. All in all, if such harassment happens to you, immediate action should be taken to prevent future violating behavior.
What if my boss fired me because I reported the sexual harassment?
Employees who either experience first-hand themselves or witness a coworker being sexually harassed, may be afraid to report the matter. An employee may be fearful of employer retaliation or even being fired. The fear of punishment or further harassment can keep an employee quiet.
What can an attorney do to help me in regards to what happened?
An employee that was both the victim of sexual harassment and retaliation for being a whistleblower, may be entitled to a substantial amount of financial compensation. An attorney can help an employee decide whether it is in their best interest to file a lawsuit against the employer for restitution. A lawyer, like a whistleblower retaliation claim lawyer in Washington, DC from Eric Siegel Law, can also offer advice, insight, and help protect your rights if they have been violated.