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Experiencing sexual harassment at work can be terrifying. You might not know what to do next because you are afraid that your job may be on the line. Your employer’s reaction to a complaint can be unpredictable; however, it is important to know that you are protected by certain laws.
First, tell the harasser to stop if you feel comfortable enough doing so. Take the following steps if you do not feel comfortable confronting your harasser or if they will not stop after you’ve confronted him or her.
5 steps to take after experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace
- Follow the steps in your company’s anti-harassment policy. Your employer should have an anti-harassment policy on their website or in the employee handbook. You can also ask the HR department for a copy of the policy. It should provide steps for reporting the harassment and filing a complaint.
- Talk to your supervisor if there is no policy. Tell them about the incident(s) and ask them for help to prevent the harassment. If the offender is your supervisor, then talk to his or her boss. You are protected by law from punishment and/or retaliation for coming forward. Your boss or employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for reporting or participating in a harassment investigation or lawsuit.
- Consult with an attorney. A lawyer can help you understand the best options for your situation. You do not need to have physical injuries to have a solid case. A strong case is built on evidence, which can include formal complaints to your employer or a government agency. Accordingly, you should document and save everything.
- You can choose to file an administrative charge with a government agency. If talking to your supervisor doesn’t resolve the matter, you can file a charge with the EEOC or with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. They will determine whether your complaint is valid; schedule you for mediation; provide you with a right to sue letter; and/or commence litigation on your behalf. A lawyer can guide you through the process with the Colorado Civil Rights Division or the EEOC and/or commence litigation on your behalf.
- Pursue litigation. You may wish to sue your employer to seek justice and compensation. Pursuing litigation means you may be able to recover damages for backpay, lost benefits and emotional distress. You may also be able to get your job reinstated if you lost it due to harassment or retaliation.
Confronting a supervisor or coworker can be difficult, especially if you fear for your job or your safety. Survivors of sexual harassment and assault have options for help no matter where they stand in the process.