Protecting Yourself Against Sexual Harassment

The issue of sexual harassment has been a prominent one recently with the #MeToo movement and the firings of well-known men accused of sexual harassment, but among women who aren’t famous, much work remains to be done.

According to recent research, workers are by and large reluctant to report harassment. A survey for the recruiting CareerBuilder found that 72 percent of people who are sexually harassed at work don’t report it, either because they didn’t want to be labeled a troublemaker or were afraid of losing their job. Twenty-eight percent of those who felt sexually harassed said they were sexually harassed by their boss, and more than 54 percent said they didn’t confront the person who was harassing them.

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll between November 28 and December 20, 2017 and included a representative sample of 809 full-time workers across industries and company sizes in the U.S. private sector.

The issue also appeared across levels of employment. Although a manager or supervisor was the harasser in 36 percent of the cases, peers were more frequent harassers (60 percent). Other harassers included clients, vendors and direct reports.

But although the situation often seems daunting or overwhelming, there are steps you can take to eliminate harassment. Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, shared tips for workers who have been sexually harassed in the workplace.

  • Know your rights: Find out if your company has a policy in place. The policy will usually include your rights, protections against retaliation and an outline of what happens if a claim is reported. Even if your company doesn’t have a policy, keep in mind that that according to the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. You have the legal right to be protected from sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlines protections that Americans have in the workplace. Other state laws or employer policies may also protect you from sexual harassment.
  • Write it down: Write down what you plan to say to report the harassment. Have as many specifics as possible. Make sure you clarify how the harassment has affected your ability to do your job. Whether or not you ultimately decide to file a complaint, it can be useful to keep a written record of the times you have felt harassed and the types of harassment you have experienced.
  • Voice your concern: If you feel comfortable speaking to the person directly, politely but firmly tell them to stop, being specific about what behaviors make you uncomfortable. You can send them a letter if you don’t feel comfortable talking in person.
  • Tell someone: If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to the person directly, report the harassment to your superior, your harasser’s superior or your HR department. How you should go about this will depend on your company’s individual policies.

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